Managing credit freeze to avoid identity theft gets easier

The fees apply to each credit bureau. So depending on where you live, it could cost you $30 or more to freeze all three of your credit reports. For that reason, a credit freeze might be most appropriate for consumers who don't plan to apply for new credit in the near future.

Currently, TransUnion is waiving fees for consumers who go online to freeze their credit reports, spokesman Steven Katz says. People who freeze their credit by phone or mail, he says, will pay the fees applicable to their state. TransUnion might impose fees for the online credit freeze in the future, Katz says.

•Confusion. When you place a fraud alert on your credit report, you have to contact only one credit bureau, and it will alert the two others. This isn't the case with a credit freeze. You must contact all three credit bureaus — either online, by phone or through the mail — to impose or lift a credit freeze. You can find more information on their websites: www.experian.com, www.transunion.com and www.equifax.com.

The patchwork of state laws can seem bewildering. Though credit freezes are administered by the credit bureaus, the laws governing them are determined by the states.

Consumers Union offers links to each state's credit freeze laws at www.financialprivacynow.org.

Sandra Block covers personal finance for USA TODAY and is a co-author of 'The Busy Family's Guide to Money.' Her Your Money column appears Tuesdays. Click here for an index of Your Money columns. E-mail her at: sblock@usatoday.com.

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