Did you know that you can “freeze” your credit reports? By freezing your credit reports, credit card companies and other creditors cannot access your credit report. If they cannot access your credit report, they are unlikely to open a new account in your name. If you need someone to access your credit report, you can “thaw” your account and give them a copy of your credit report.
This may be the most underutilized tool to protect vulnerable elders from financial exploitation. Because elders typically do not need regular access to his or her credit report, a freeze should not cause much of a hassle. But helping a senior recover from financial exploitation is an exhausting process that often causes a senior’s health to deteriorate rapidly. This is particularly true if the exploiter is a close family member.
Thus, I encourage all seniors, guardians, POAs, and caregivers, to read over a recent New York Times article explaining how you can “freeze” a credit report. Here are some highlights about how to do it:
All three bureaus will let you put an initial freeze in place on their Web sites. I’ve posted links to Equifax’s page, Experian’s site andTransUnion’s starting point in the online version of this column. . . .
Once you’ve put a freeze in place, you can thaw your files temporarily if someone needs to examine your credit report. The bureaus also let you do this on the Web and supply you with personal identification numbers for the purpose. The cost for the initial freeze and the thaw will run anywhere from nothing to $20 or so per bureau, depending on the maximum price, if any, that a law in your state has set and whether you are a recent identity theft victim. . . .
If you don’t want to deal with any hassle, there is a company, TrustedID, with a product called Credit Lock that will handle the freezing and thawing for you. You’ll pay $14.95 for the initial freeze, plus whatever the bureau charges in your state. Then, you’ll pay $9.95 plus the state charges for each bureau when you want to thaw. You also have to sign a limited power of attorney form for TrustedID to act on your behalf and turn your PINs over to the company as well.
As the article goes on to state, a “credit freeze is a no-brainer for people who are no longer applying for much credit. I think I agree.