Credit Bureaus Announce Free Credit Freezes for Military Members

Active-duty military members are given a number of financial protections, and the major credit reporting agencies just added one more perk to that list.

Active-duty military members are given a number of financial protections that average consumers aren’t privy to, and this week the major credit reporting agencies added one more perk to that list — free credit freezes.

The move was announced Wednesday in a release from the Consumer Data Industry Association, a trade group that represents the major credit reporting agencies. Experian, Equifax and TransUnion are all participating in offering free credit freezes for active-duty military, which is expected to roll out in the first half of 2018.

Freezes are a tool used for identity theft victims to stop their credit from being used without their permission. It essentially blocks anyone from opening new lines of credit using the consumer’s identity, unless the consumer has the freeze temporarily lifted or removed.

“Given the nature of the military lifestyle, with frequent location moves and overseas deployments, these brave men and women, and their families, may find it particularly challenging to address an identity theft situation,” said Eric J. Ellman, Interim President and CEO of CDIA.

Placing, lifting or removing a security freeze can cost up to $10 each time, depending on the state you live in and the bureau offering it. Active-duty military members already can place a one-year credit alert on their file for free, though this will not stop a new application for credit by default like a freeze would. The alert just requires the lender or creditor to take extra measures to ensure the applicant is legitimate.

Identity theft can do major credit score damage both upfront and in the long term. An identity thief with enough information to apply for credit in your name can make a bunch of applications for credit in a short period of time before you notice the theft. That will cause an immediate drop in your score by inflating your inquiries. And if the theft goes unnoticed, any new accounts that they’ve opened will go without payment, sinking your score even more.

The move by the bureaus to offer free credit freezes is especially important when you consider the long-lasting impact of identity theft on military members and veterans. Buying a home, getting credit cards, even starting a business (9% of U.S. businesses are veteran-owned, according to the Small Business Administration) are extremely difficult to do with a bad credit score, and identity thieves with personal information like your Social Security number can lie in wait for years since these numbers rarely change, hurting servicemembers long after the theft has occurred.

The best protection against identity theft is vigilance. Keep an eye on your credit reports and scores, checking for signs of identity theft. (You can see two of your credit scores for free right here on Credit.com.) Keep your personal identifying information on lockdown. And if you still find your information being used fraudulently, credit alerts or freezes can help keep you safe.

Image: AleksandarNakic

The post Credit Bureaus Announce Free Credit Freezes for Military Members appeared first on Credit.com.

How Much a Credit Freeze Costs You by State

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Are you going through an identity crisis? Not the kind we all experience in high school when we went back and forth from wearing preppy polos to wearing studded jackets. No, this type of identity crisis is more serious, and it has its roots in identity theft. When someone steals your identity, you’re vulnerable in a myriad of ways. Thieves may steal money using your debit card information, or take out a mortgage in your name. They have the potential to ruin your finances, and therefore your life.

If you do find yourself a victim, you may want to put a freeze on your credit report. That way, when thieves go to open a new account in your name, the lending institution will not be able pull your report. When they can’t pull the report, they will not be able to extend credit.

Here are some situations where placing a freeze on your credit report may make sense:

  • Someone stole your identity and applied for new credit.
  • Someone stole your credit or debit card information. You will know this is the case because their shopping trips will show up on your statements, or your financial institution may get in touch with you about suspicious activity. A credit freeze won’t stop them from spending more with your current information, but it will stop them from opening new accounts.
  • Someone is using your identity to rack up medical bills. This means they have your Social Security number, and a credit freeze will prevent them from taking out new credit with lending institutions. It will not, however, prevent them from continuing to commit medical identity theft.
  • You go to file your taxes, and are informed your return has already been filed. In this case, you are likely the victim of tax fraud, and the thief has your Social Security number. Much like medical identity theft, a credit freeze will not prevent thieves from committing tax fraud in the future, but it will keep them from opening additional lines of credit in your name.

[Credit Freeze: A Defense Against Identity Theft]

Having your identity stolen is inconvenient to say the least, especially if it’s happening when you are planning to make a large purchase. Because your credit report is frozen, you won’t be able to apply for new credit yourself. In these instances, you can temporarily remove the freeze.

When you’re satisfied that your identity is no longer at immediate risk, you can permanently remove the freeze.

That’s not to say that the process is free. Each action comes with a different fee for every state. You must pay these fees three times, or once per each credit bureau. Most states waive all fees if you are the victim of identity theft, but you must be able to prove it with sufficient documentation at the time that you place your credit freeze.

[Worth It Or Not? Identity Theft Reviewed]

Here are the fees and exceptions for placing a credit freeze on an adult’s credit report for all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico:

Alabama, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming

The above nine states charge a $10 fee for each of the following actions: placing a freeze, temporarily removing it, and permanently removing it. The fee is waived in each instance if you were the victim of identity theft.

Alaska

Alaska charges a $5 fee to place a freeze on your credit report. It charges a $2 fee to temporarily remove the freeze, but it charges nothing for the freeze’s permanent removal. All fees are waived if you were the victim of identity theft.

Arizona, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota and Ohio

All five of the above states charge a $5 fee for placing a freeze, temporary removal, and permanent removal. The fees are waived if you were a victim of identity theft.

Arkansas

Arkansas charges $5 for placing a freeze on your credit report, temporarily removing it, and permanently removing it. All fees are waived if you are age 65 or older, or if you are the victim of identity theft.

California

California’s fee for placing a credit freeze is $10. This fee is waived if you are 65 years of age or older. There is a $10 fee for both temporary and permanent removal of the freeze, and both of these fees are reduced to $5 for those 65+ years old. All fees are waived for victims of identity theft.

Colorado, New Jersey, and New York

Colorado has no fee associated with placing a credit freeze, though victims of identity theft must still provide supporting documentation of their case. That is because when you go to have the freeze temporarily or permanently removed, you will be hit with a $10 fee in each instance if you are not a victim of identity theft.

New Jersey, and New York follow a nearly identical procedure, though the removal fees for those who are not victims of identity theft are $5 each in New Jersey, and $5.44 in New York in contrast to Colorado’s $10.

Connecticut

The state of Connecticut charges $10.64 each for placing a credit freeze, temporarily removing it, and permanently removing it. All fees are waived for victims of identity theft.

Delaware

Delaware charges $10 for placing a freeze, or $5 if you are 65 years of age or older. The fee is waived if you are the victim of identity theft. There are no fees for anyone for temporary, or permanent removal of a credit freeze.

Florida

Florida charges $10 for each of the following actions: placing a credit freeze, temporarily removing it, and permanently removing it. All fees are waived for victims of identity theft, and residents age 65 or older.

Georgia

Georgia charges $3 each for placing a credit freeze, temporarily removing the freeze, and permanently removing it. All fees are waived for those 65 or older, and victims of identity theft.

Hawaii

Hawaii’s fees for placing a credit freeze, temporarily removing it, and permanently removing it are $5.20 per each action. This fee is waived for victims of identity theft only for temporary or permanent removals; everyone has to pay the initial $5.20 fee to place the freeze in the first place.

Idaho

Idaho charges $6 for placing a freeze, and another $6 fee for temporarily removing it. Victims of identity theft are exempt from both of these fees. No one has to pay anything to have a freeze permanently removed from their credit report in this state.

Illinois, Nevada, and Rhode Island

Illinois, Nevada, and Rhode Island charge $10 each for placing a freeze, temporarily removing it, and permanently removing it. Residents age 65 and older are exempt from the $10 fee when placing a freeze, but remain subject to all removal fees. Victims of identity theft are exempt from all fees.

Indiana, Maine & South Carolina

There are no fees of any kind associated with credit freezes for adult residents of the states of Indiana, Maine, and South Carolina.

Iowa

Iowa charges a $10 fee for placing a credit freeze, though victims of identity theft are exempt. Victims are also not charged the $12 temporary removal fee, though they are subject to the state’s $10 fee for permanent removal of their credit freeze.

Louisiana

Louisiana charges $10 for placing a freeze, though residents age 62 and older, and victims of identity theft are exempt from this specific charge. Victims of identity thefts are also exempt from the $8 fee for temporarily removing the freeze. There are no fees for any Louisiana residents for permanently removing a freeze from their credit report.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts’s fees are $5 each for placing a freeze, temporarily removing a freeze, and permanently removing it. Victims of identity theft and their spouses are exempt from all fees.

Missouri & North Dakota

Missouri, and North Dakota charge $5 in fees for both placing a credit freeze, and temporarily removing it. Victims of identity theft do not have to pay either of these fees. Missouri and North Dakota residents, regardless of their victim status, do not have to pay anything to have a freeze permanently removed.

Montana

The state of Montana has instituted a $3 fee for placing a credit freeze, and for having that freeze temporarily removed. Victims of identity theft are exempt from both fees. Montana residents do not have to pay any fees associated with permanent removal of a credit freeze.

Nebraska

Nebraska charges a $3 fee for each of the following actions: placing a freeze, temporarily removing a freeze, and permanently removing it. Victims of identity theft are exempt from all fees. In addition, Nebraska considers you a minor if you are under the age of 19. If you are under 19, and find yourself the victim of identity theft, your fees will be waived, but you will have to have a guardian file for you.

New Mexico

New Mexico charges $10.50 for placing a credit freeze. Residents age 65 and older, and victims of identity theft are exempt from this fee. Temporarily removing the freeze, and permanently removing it will incur a charge of $5.25. Victims are exempt from all removal fees, as well.

North Carolina

The only fee North Carolina charges is $5 for each of the following actions for a protected consumer in your care between the ages of 16-62: placing a freeze, temporarily removing it, and permanently removing it. In any other circumstance, North Carolina residents are not charged any fees.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania residents are charged $10.70 for placing a credit freeze unless they are victims of identity theft, or age 65 or older. There is another $10.70 fee for placing a temporary removal on your freeze. This fee is waived only for victims of identity theft. Pennsylvania residents, regardless of age, or victim status, are not charged any fees associated for the permanent removal of a credit freeze.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico charges $10.70 in fees for each of the following actions: placing a credit freeze, temporarily removing a freeze, and permanently removing it. All fees are waived if you are a victim of identity theft.

South Dakota

South Dakota’s fee of $10.60 applies to each of the following actions: placing a freeze, temporarily removing it, and permanently removing it. All fees are waived for victims of identity theft.

Tennessee

Tennessee charges $7.50 for placing a credit freeze. While there are no fees associated with temporary removals, there is a $5 fee for permanently removing the freeze from your credit report. Both fees are waived for victims of identity theft.

Texas

Texas charges $10.83 for placing a freeze on your credit report. This fee is the only one victims of identity theft are exempt from. There is also a $10.83 fee for both temporarily, and permanently removing the freeze. All Texas residents are subject to removal fees, regardless of victim status.

Vermont

Vermont charges $10 for placing a freeze, and $5 each for temporary, and permanent removal of the freeze on your credit report. Victims of identity theft are exempt from all fees.

Virginia & Washington, D.C.

The District of Columbia, and Virginia both charge a $10 fee for placing a credit freeze, though it is waived for victims of identity theft. There are no fees associated with temporary, or permanent removal of the freeze.

Washington (State)

The state of Washington charges $10.95 each for placing, temporarily removing, and permanently removing a freeze on your credit report. Residents age 65 and older do not have to pay the placement fee, but are subject to all removal fees. All fees are waived for victims of identity theft.

West Virginia

West Virginia charges $5.30 for each of the following actions: placing a credit freeze, temporarily removing said freeze, and permanently removing it. Victims of identity theft are exempt from all fees.

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