Q: What ex­actly is a credit freeze? A:

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Also known as a se­cu­rity freeze, a credit freeze re­stricts ac­cess to your credit re­port so no one can open a new credit ac­count in your name.

A credit freeze pre­vents crim­i­nals from us­ing your per­sonal in­for­ma­tion to open new ac­counts or get loans in your name, since most cred­i­tors/lenders need to see your credit re­port be­fore ap­prov­ing a new ac­count. And in or­der to au­tho­rize the new ac­count, they need to ver­ify that it’s ac­tu­ally you — and when your credit is frozen, crim­i­nals can’t pre­tend to be you.

Once you freeze your credit with all three main credit agen­cies, you then re­ceive a unique PIN from each that only you know and have ac­cess to. If the agency of­fers the op­tion of email you your PIN, that’s a bad idea, in case your email were to get hacked at some point.

Im­por­tant note: Do not lose that PIN — make sure to keep each unique PIN in a safe place where only you (or your spouse/fam­ily mem­ber) can ac­cess it.

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