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Special section Guarding against ID theft: myths and real stories

The credit freeze blocks most third parties from accessing your credit file. Here's how it works.

14 myths about credit freezes

4. Current creditors cannot run checks on your report if the file is frozen.
They absolutely can. A credit freeze doesn't work against companies with which you have an existing relationship. They can still check your credit to see if you are paying other creditors as agreed. The credit freeze will only block access to your file if the request is for a new credit or insurance account.

5. Credit freezes stop prescreened offers for credit and insurance.
No, a credit freeze doesn't remove you from these mailing lists. If you want to remove your name from the list provided by Experian, Equifax, TransUnion and Innovis Data Solutions, the fourth major credit bureau, you may call (888) 5-OPTOUT or (888) 567-8688 or submit your request online at optoutprescreen.com. You can choose to opt out for five years, or permanently.

6. New creditors who request a frozen report will still receive it, with a warning of possible fraud.
That's actually the case with fraud alerts. A credit freeze prevents new creditors from seeing your credit report. New creditors will only receive a statement saying the file has been frozen, says Sweet. They will not receive a copy of the report.

7. You can't check your own credit report or score under a credit freeze.
Credit freezes do not block consumers from requesting their own credit files.

8. Once set with one credit bureau, the agency will automatically notify the other two of the credit freeze.
Unlike fraud alerts, credit freezes must be set up with each of the nationwide credit-reporting agencies individually. The credit bureau will not notify the other agencies of the freeze. If you have a freeze in place and are applying for a loan or a job, you will need to find out which credit bureau the company uses and unfreeze the credit file housed by that bureau.

9. You can thaw a credit freeze within minutes.
As of yet, that's not a reality. Unless you live in Utah, where residents may lift or remove a credit freeze within 15 minutes after submitting an online request -- and even they cannot do that until Sept. 1, 2008. Wyoming residents will get the ability to thaw their credit freezes within 15 minutes starting the same day. Until then, residents in eligible states have to wait up to three business days for freezes to thaw. So, if you want instant credit, you'll have to thaw ahead of time.

10. You can't use your credit cards during a credit freeze.
Despite what the term "credit freeze" might imply, you can still use your active credit cards without issue. The only time the credit freeze will pose a hindrance is when you apply for new credit. Unless you thaw your credit file, the creditor won't be able to check your credit report or score.

Next: "You'll still want to guard your personal information. ..."
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