As a way to combat identity theft and increase security protocols, consumers often use credit freezes to keep outsiders from accessing their credit reports. When you contact one of the three major U.S. credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion or Equifax – you can instruct it to ‘freeze’ your credit information, which it’s legally required to do within one business day. Making the process even more accessible, a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) mandate – which passed into federal law on September 21, 2018 – allows credit report freezes and unfreezes to be requested free of charge.
Now, while the practice is advantageous from a security perspective, unintended consequences can occur.
Through its online portal, the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) allows you to manage all of your benefits online – including retirement, disability and survivor’s benefits. In the past however, you could apply for Medicare separately, using a process that took no more than 10 minutes. But, due to recent changes, the SSA requires you to create a my Social Security account in order to sign up for Medicare online. The downside of this arrangement is the SSA needs access to your credit report. And anyone with a freeze or fraud alert is ineligible.
Per the SSA’s website:
“You cannot create a my Social Security account online if you have a security freeze, fraud alert, or both on your credit report. You first must ask our Identity Services Provider to remove the freeze or alert.”
Now, the ‘Identity Services Provider’ it’s talking about is Equifax. The SSA uses Equifax’s technology to protect its data and prevent fraudulent access to my Social Security user’s personal information.
So if you find affected by this new policy, what are your options?
- ‘Unfreeze’ your credit report
If you contact Equifax directly, you can ‘unfreeze’ your credit report, which will allow you to sign up for my Social Security. You can do this through Equifax’s website by registering for a myEquifax account and updating your personal settings. As a second option, you can contact the company’s automated telephone service at 1-800-349-9960 and request them to ‘unfreeze’ your report. To complete the process, you need the 10-digit PIN you were assigned when the freeze was originally put in place. As a third option, you can also fill out Equifax’s Freeze Request Form and send it to: Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348.
- Create a my Social Security account in person at your local Social Security office
If you head to a SSA location, you can create a my Social Security account in person without being required to remove the credit freeze. Just make sure you bring documents that confirm your identity, age and your place of birth. You also have to answer security questions. If you choose this option, the SSA recommends to call ahead of time and make an appointment to avoid a long wait period.
Am I Eligible To Apply For Medicare Online?
Online Medicare enrollment is right for you if:
- You are at least 64 years and 9 months old
- You want to sign up for Medicare and don’t currently have any Medicare coverage
- You do not want to receive other Social Security benefits at this time and you are not currently receiving Social Security retirement, disability or survivors benefits
Also note, the SSA recommends to sign up for Medicare at least three months before turning 65, even if you’re not yet ready to receive other retirement benefits.
Why Should I Apply For Medicare Online?
Using the online portal has plenty of benefits: mainly faster processing and the ability to amend your application.
Other benefits include:
- Saving time and money by not having to make in person visits to your local Social Security office
- Having the ability to start and stop the application without fear of losing any information
- Having the ability to edit or correct the application before submitting
- Electronic submission ensures faster processing
- After completing the process you receive a receipt for your online application and also have the ability to print the document for your records
- You receive a confirmation number after the application is complete, which enables you to check the status of your application anytime
What Happens After I Submit My Online Application?
Once your final application is received by the SSA, the administration reviews the documents and will contact if you if it needs any additional information. If not, the application is processed and the SSA eventually mails you a decision letter. All-in-all, it takes most applicants three weeks to receive their Medicare card after applying.