Q&A: Credit freezes

Dear Liz: You recently suggested a credit freeze. I agree that’s a good idea, and probably the only good way, to try to protect your credit.

But I’ve tried to periodically unfreeze my credit reports and that rarely goes well. The banks won’t tell you which credit bureau or bureaus they use to check your credit, so you have to temporarily thaw your reports at all three. This weekend, only one bureau worked well. At another, I was able to sign on but got a message the site was temporarily unable to access my information. The third didn’t recognize any of my possible usernames, so I tried my Social Security number and date of birth, which it also didn’t recognize. I’m SURE I don’t have those wrong, so I’d say part or all of their database is offline. More than likely I’ll be able to sort this out on a weekday when the bureaus staff their phones, but so far, I’ve worked on unfreezing my credit for two days and only one of the three services responded correctly.

Answer: Freezing and thawing your credit reports is certainly easier and faster than it used to be — plus, these services are now free by federal law. But as you’ve learned, you need to keep careful track of the credentials associated with your accounts at each credit bureau, including any login IDs, passwords and personal identification numbers.

You can write this information down and keep it in a secure location, but also consider using a password manager. These secure software programs allow you to create unique credentials for each site you visit. Given the prevalence of database breaches, it’s essential that you don’t reuse usernames and passwords. The programs also can help you change your passwords regularly, which is also important in keeping your information secure.

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