Credit freeze

Question: My question involves job applications and my social security number. When I fill out a job application, I need to submit my social security number. If I place a credit freeze with the credit companies, would this still allow an employer to access my credit report to see that I am financially responsible, but also prevent an unscrupulous person from abusing my credit? Jeff, Portage, MI

Answer: A "credit freeze" or "security freeze" lets you block the disclosure of your credit report by the credit bureaus. It's standard practice for anyone that is a victim of identity theft, and more and more consumers are embracing the tactic these day.

You're right, a credit freeze can be an issue depending on where you live. About a third of the states allow landlords and employers to check out a frozen credit report. That said, even if you live in a state that doesn't permit employers to take a look freezing may be a sensible strategy. It just means you'll have to plan ahead if you're in the market for a new job, apartment, credit card, mortgage, refinancing or other large financial transaction. The thaw typically takes several days. In most cases the thaw fee is in the $10 range for each bureau, and you'll pay another fee to put it back in the freezer.

You can look at the different state rules about credit freezes here. The web sites of state attorney generals also have good information about a credit freeze. In Michigan there is no state credit freeze law so you'll follow the rules established by the three credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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