Thanks to a new law, you can now freeze and unfreeze your credit for free. A credit freeze prevents a credit reporting company from releasing your credit report without your consent -- preventing a would-be thief from taking a loan or opening a credit card in your name. But should you?
Mostly, experts think it’s a good thing. Here’s why.
The pros: “Credit freezes are the nuclear option when it comes to protecting yourself from identity theft because it keeps anyone, including you, from getting credit in your name,” says Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst for CompareCards.com.
Attorney Steven Weisman, author of "Identity Theft Alert," is adamant. “There are absolutely no downsides to freezing your credit now that it is free and easy. Additionally, the new federal law also allows parents to create and freeze credit reports for their children for free.”
The cons: Credit freezes aren't perfect. “While freezes prevent bad guys from getting credit in your name, they do nothing to stop a fraudster from using your current credit card if they get a hold of your information. That's why even if your credit is frozen, you still need to check your online bank and credit card statements at least once a week to make sure no fraudulent charges appear,” says Schulz.
When you freeze your credit with one of the credit bureaus, you receive a PIN that you’ll need to “melt” the freeze. You can temporarily give authorization to access your credit file by giving your PIN to the bureau. Says Beverly Harzog, a consumer finance expert for U.S. News & World Report, “It’s not a difficult process unless you lose your PIN. Keep it in a secure place so you’ll have it when you need it.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of Beverly Harzog, consumer finance expert for U.S. News &World Report.