Credit Freeze Popularity on the Rise

Every time your credit card is swiped, it triggers an instant sharing of your credit history — between the bank, the payment processor and the retail store where you are shopping. The process leads to the authorization or denial of your purchase.

That information is valuable to you — and also to identity thieves who, if they get hold of that information, can open up new accounts under your name. In the past four months, there have been 45 cases of exposed consumer data, affecting up to 50 million Americans.

Click in the video box above for a complete report by FOX News' Phil Keating.

Now, more and more Americans are protecting themselves by putting those records on ice — asking the country's three credit reporting agencies to freeze their credit records.

"This freezes identity thieves out of your credit reports and makes sure that only the authorized people have access to your credit report," says Luke Metzger of the Public Interest Research Group.

At the start of the year, four state allowed you to freeze your credit record: California, Texas, Louisiana and Vermont. Since then, four more states (Washington, Maine, Colorado and Nevada) have joined the list, which could soon total 29 states.

But banks, retailers and lenders oppose this growing trend. Thats because freezing records eliminates instant credit, which can reduce a customer's ability to buy — and jeopardize a retailer's ability to sell big-ticket items. Another drawback of freezing your credit: You can't refinance a mortgage or get a loan... and if you want to buy an expensive item like a car, you'll have to use cash. You can lift the freeze... but but doing so will take several days.