One tool in your defense against ID theft is the ability to freeze access to your credit report. Credit reports are used by credit card companies to provide offers of preapproved credit and used by other lenders to provide loans.

If a lender cannot gain access to your credit report, the chance of someone illegally getting credit in your name is significantly reduced.

You may freeze access to your credit report by contacting each credit agency (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) and requesting your credit reports be frozen.

You will pay $10 per person (Washington State residents) to each agency to complete your account freeze. You may complete an account freeze online by going to the agencies websites. (Be prepared for some possible difficult past credit verification questions to confirm your identity.) You may also complete an account freeze in writing.

A freeze is permanent until you undo it. It will cost you $10 to unfreeze your account if you want to later allow a possible creditor to gain access to your credit report. Freezing your accounts may not be in your best interest if you frequently borrow money.

There are reduced fees or no freeze charges for those over the age of 65 and for those who are victims of ID theft.

A freeze seems to be a slam-dunk for someone who does not anticipate borrowing money or one who borrows money infrequently. I would also suggest you consider account freezes for elderly family members who no longer need credit. Closing out unused credit cards and freezing access to the credit reports of the elderly who will no longer be borrowing money may save you and your loved one a significant headache.