The State of California Office of the Attorney General's office has details about how to put a "security freeze" on your credit file so that your file cannot be shared with potential creditors. California law requires credit bureaus to offer security freezes as a way to combat identity theft.
Why would you want to do a security freeze? To stop identity theft in its tracks! If you FREEZE your credit file, someone who has stolen your personal information will be much less likely to open a new credit card or loan in your name.
Establishing a credit freeze is a bit of a hassle in that you have to place the freeze with all three of the major credit bureaus, then you may need to "un-freeze" the credit from time to time when you are interested in refinancing, getting a new credit card, a car loan, etc. But it may well be worth it...think of the time and stress of dealing with identity theft after the fact!
A security freeze is free to those who have a police report of identity theft. If you are not an identity theft victim and you are under 65 years of age, it will cost you $10 to place a freeze with each of the three credit bureaus, for a total of $30. If you are not an identity theft victim and are 65 or older, it will cost you $5 to place a freeze with each of the three credit bureaus, or $15 in total.
Placing a Security Freeze
You can request a security freeze by mail or online. Let's stick to online freezes here. Credit bureaus Equifax, Experian and Trans Union each have websites for security freezes:
They will ask for your full name, Social Security number, complete addresses for the past two years, date of birth and a copy of a Government issued ID card as well as a utility bill or bank statement to document your identity. Follow the instructions given, have your police report or payment available, and your freeze will be in place within three business days.
As part of the process you will establish a Personal Information Number (PIN) with each bureau. It is important to safeguard this PIN to remove the freeze when needed. Of course if you have family, you may want to do one for your spouse, kids and perhaps a person who is medically incapacitated that you are the guardian for.
Removing a Freeze
OK, so you have a security freeze in place, that's great! But now you need a car loan or are applying for credit or insurance, refinancing, filling out a rental form, etc and you need to unlock your credit for these purposes. Using your PIN, you can lift the freeze for a period of time or for a specific creditor. Lifting the freeze will cost you $10 (or $5 if you are 65 or older). Plan ahead, as it may take up to three days to lift the security freeze. Hey, that may be a good thing...you won't be able to apply for credit cards "on the fly" anymore!
Learn more at oag.ca.gov/idtheft/facts/freeze-your-credit.