Credit Freezes Aren't Foolproof

Why you should still be periodically checking all three credit reports.

(Image credit: Steve Heap 2018)

Question: My wife and I both froze our credit reports to prevent identity theft. With the freeze in place, is it safe to stop checking our credit reports periodically? - G.W., Chantilly, Va.

Answer: A credit freeze is not a foolproof mechanism to protect against ID theft, and it’s still a good idea to check your credit reports regularly. You can get a free copy of your report from each of the three credit bureaus every 12 months at annualcreditreport.com. (The freeze doesn’t affect your ability to check your report.)

A freeze prevents new creditors from accessing your credit report, making it more difficult for ID thieves to take out new credit in your name. But “a freeze does not prevent someone from using an existing account to make fraudulent charges, which is far more common,” says Rod Griffin, director of public education for credit bureau Experian. When you check your report, “you may also find evidence of fraud, such as variation in your name spelling, Social Security number or other identification,” he says. Report any suspicious information or errors to the credit bureau. Go to Experian.com (opens in new tab), Equifax.com (opens in new tab) and TransUnion.com (opens in new tab) to place a temporary fraud alert for suspicious activity or to dispute information on a report.

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Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.