If your personal information has been exposed or stolen -- or if you just don't want to worry as much about potential breaches -- consider freezing your credit reports.
Credit freezes lock up your credit report, so that no one can get in your report without your permission. That makes it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts, or take out loans, in your name.
Here's what you need to know to get a freeze in Ohio:
In Ohio, a freeze costs $5. You'll need to freeze your reports at all three major credit bureaus for the freeze for a freeze to be effective. That means you'll pay $15. Each member of a couple has his or her own report, so couples pay $30.
When you want to open a new account -- or if you apply for a job, insurance or anything else that requires a credit check -- you'll have to pay $5 for a thaw. If you can find out which bureau the lender uses, you can thaw at just that one bureau. Ohio law allows you to thaw credit reports for a specific lender or to unlock the report for a specified period of time, a feature you might prefer if you're shopping several lenders to find the best quote on a loan.
Identity theft victims in Ohio can get freezes and thaws free -- but you're considered a victim of identity theft only if someone has tried to use your information, not just if they've swiped it. To qualify, victims will need to provide a copy of a police report about the fraud or attempted fraud.
The easiest way
to get a freeze is by phone. at the bureaus that allow you to do it that way. Next best: online. (Have your Social Security number and credit card number handy.) Some companies make documentation requirements cumbersome if you request by mail, so I recommend avoiding that if you can. When you freeze by phone or mail, you'll get a follow-up confirmation in the mail.
Keep your confirmation and PIN on file in a safe place. You will need this information when you want to thaw or if you ever need to reach a human being about your report. Replacement PINs cost another five bucks.
Freezes are a great tool for fighting a type of identity theft known as new account fraud, in which a thief uses your info to create new accounts. Freezes will not protect you if a thief uses one of your existing accounts -- for example, a credit card account.
Freezes do not affect your current accounts, and they will not prevent companies you do business with from posting information, good or bad, on your reports.
CONTACTING THE CREDIT BUREAUS:
By certified mail: Send your full name, complete address, Social Security number, date of birth and $5 fee (not cash) to Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta 30348.
By phone: 1-800-685-1111. (You'll hear a long message that you can't interrupt, then hit 8 at the first number prompt.)
By certified mail: Send your full name, current proof of address, date of birth and Social Security number and proof of current residence (like a copy of your driver's license ) and $5 fee (not cash) to TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834.