Checking your credit reports regularly and applying a security freeze may help you detect or avoid certain types of identity theft.
What’s in a credit report?
A credit report provides information about your credit history. It includes personal information such as your name, address, and Social Security number. The credit report also has account information such as the types of credit in your name, the dates you opened the accounts, and your payment history.
Your credit report also shows information about lenders who have accessed your credit report, either because you applied for credit with that lender or because the lender wanted to send you a preapproved offer of credit.
The report may show negative items such as delinquency reports made by your lender when you missed a payment or overdue debt reported by collection agencies. Additionally, a credit report includes public record information such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, tax liens, garnishments, lawsuits, and judgments.
There are three major credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If you have credit in your name, you should expect to have a credit report from each of the three companies.
You can check each of your three credit reports for free once a year using www.annualcreditreport.com
. Make sure the web address says www.annualcreditreport.com
. Don’t just search “annual credit report” and click on the first result because you may be directed to a fee-based service.
Check each credit report for errors. Be aware that one report could be error-free, while another could contain problems. If you find errors, contact the appropriate credit reporting company in writing. If you have trouble getting the errors corrected, file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
Also, keep in mind that while you can access your credit report for free, generally you must pay a fee to check your credit score.
Should you apply a security freeze on your credit report?
Ohio’s Credit Freeze Act allows you to place a security freeze on your personal credit reports. A security freeze generally prohibits credit reporting agencies from disclosing your credit files to third parties without your consent and could help keep an imposter from opening a credit account in your name.
The fee for Ohioans to place, temporarily lift, or permanently remove a security freeze on a credit report may be up to $5 per credit reporting agency. The fee for placing a freeze would be waived for Ohioans who can prove that they have been victims of identity theft.
To place a credit freeze on each of your credit reports (from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), contact each company by mail or online.
If you place a credit freeze on your credit report, be sure to remember the password you provide. You will need the password if you decide to apply for credit in the future and want to temporarily lift the freeze. If you don’t temporarily lift the freeze, a creditor may deny your application because the creditor likely will not be able to access your credit report.
If you know you will be applying for new credit in the near future, you may not want to place a freeze on your credit reports, because the freeze could slow the process and cost you up to $5 each time you place, temporarily lift, or remove a freeze.
A freeze generally does not apply to circumstances in which you have an existing account relationship with a creditor. It also does not affect your ability to check your own credit report.