Use these steps to freeze your credit reports at the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
By now you’ve heard about the massive data breach at Equifax. Information (including Social Security numbers) from 143 million consumers was potentially compromised by the agency entrusted with your personal information.
I’m over being outraged.
Protect yourself by putting a credit freeze on your reports. But do so at the lowest cost. Of course, it should be free but it isn’t.
A credit or security freeze prevents new services or loans from being granted in your name.
You will have to unfreeze your credit report at all three agencies if you want to apply for new credit, such as a mortgage, a home equity line or even a store credit card.
After placing the freeze, you will set up or receive a unique personal identification number (PIN) to remove the freeze.
You pay to freeze your credit report at each agency (except Equifax – see below). DC and Virginia residents pay $10 to freeze and $0 to unfreeze their reports. Maryland residents pay $5 to freeze and $5 to unfreeze their reports.
You don’t pay a fee in any state if you are a victim of identify theft.
A credit freeze will not affect your credit worthiness or score, either positively or negatively.
A credit freeze protects you more than monitoring or fraud alerts. With monitoring, the agency will send you an email or text if someone tries to apply for credit in your name.
This service seems silly to me and annoying if you aren’t in the market for new credit. And what are you supposed to do when you get the alert? I think its wiser to prevent access to your credit report in the first place.
Equifax: Use this site. Equifax bowed to public pressure and now offers free security freezes through mid-November. It is a two-step process. I enrolled on Wednesday, September 13th.
I received an email from Equifax on Friday September 20th. The email instructed me to set up my password by giving me a unique link to use. I tried several times to set up my password but the Equifax system is in an endless loop.
I accessed the unique link a couple more times and the site says I am enrolled (so my report is frozen). But I haven’t set up my PIN to unfreeze the report. You would think that three weeks after the breach they would have upgraded their server capacity. I will try again later this week.
TransUnion: Use this site. Don’t sign up for the “TrueIdentity” product that costs $20/month. Rather you want to freeze it ($10 one time charge). The freeze option is the second one listed – “Click to initiate Freeze process.”
I tried to freeze my report online but the system couldn’t process my request. It gave a phone number to call.
I called and was able to freeze my credit report. Be prepared with your credit card and have a six-digit PIN ready. You get to set up your PIN yourself. I delayed in coming up with my PIN (I didn’t want to use 123456) and the system cut me off. I called again and was able to set it up.
TransUnion followed up with a letter in the mail explaining my freeze and verifying my PIN. The letter arrived about four days after I froze my report.
Experian: Use this site. Click on the “Add a security freeze.” This one took me about five minutes to freeze since I had my PIN in my head and my credit card ready.
In sum, protect your credit report by adding a credit freeze to each of your credit reports.