Free credit freeze: What you need to know

- Following a series of data breaches, many people are looking for ways to safeguard their information. One option is a credit freeze, which will be easier to obtain under a new law.

More than two million Minnesotans had their social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and even some driver’s license numbers stolen in last year’s Equifax hack.

“If someone does open up a fraudulent credit card or loan in your name it can be extremely time consuming to undo all that,” said Dustin Smith, vice president and wealth counselor at Wealth Enhancement Group.

To protect yourself, you need to take the extra step of freezing your credit.

“By freezing your credit, essentially what you’re doing is freezing that information that those lenders would need to access, so therefore if they can’t get that information, they’re not going to give that criminal that loan,” Smith said.

Starting Friday, you no longer have that pesky $10 fee as an excuse. Experian will join TransUnion and Equifax in allowing you to freeze and thaw your credit free of charge.

“A lot of people don’t believe that they’re a worthy victim, right? They go, ‘Hey I don’t make a lot of money, and I don’t have a huge income, why would anyone want to steal my credit information?’ But in reality the criminals don’t care how much money you make, they just want to get access,” said Smith.

Smith says freezing your credit is the absolute best line of defense.

“If you have not had your personal information stolen, you really want to protect that,” Smith said.

If you want to open a new line of credit, or apply for a loan, you need to give yourself at least a day to "thaw" your credit with each of the major bureaus online or by phone. The bonus is you get to decide how long you want that freeze to be lifted.

“By checking your credit annually if you can that’s normally when you might see somethings like, ‘Hey, that’s not my credit card, I don’t remember taking out that loan.’”

Finally, look out for the senior citizens in your life. Unfortunately, predators see them as easy targets.

“The elderly right now are some of the most vulnerable people out there, because a lot of their personal information might be sent to them still in the mail which might get stolen also these elderly people might not be as tech savvy so they are less likely to actually freeze their credit.”

For more information on the Equifax hack from the Attorney General's office, visit this web page

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