Credit freezes are one of the most effective ways for consumers to protect themselves against identity theft. Data breaches at banks, healthcare providers, insurance companies and credit processors have left consumers vulnerable to fraudsters, and freezing access to your credit file may help you avoid becoming a victim.
What exactly is a credit freeze? A credit freeze is a free tool that lets you restrict access to your credit report. It’s an extra layer of security to help prevent ID thieves from establishing new credit in your name, even if they obtain your personal information. Most creditors want to view your credit file to check your creditworthiness before they extend credit, and a freeze blocks any new potential creditors from being able to view your credit file.
It’s imperative that you freeze your credit with all three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You may request a credit freeze with each agency online, by phone, or by mail. Each credit reporting agency has an application process and will assign a personal identification number (PIN) to lift the freeze/thaw your credit when you need to process legitimate applications. Below is a quick reference guide on how to put a freeze in place with each agency:
By phone: 800-685-1111
By mail: Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348
By phone: 888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)
By mail: Experian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
By phone: 888-909-8872
By mail: TransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016
How do you lift a freeze? You may lift the credit freeze/ thaw your credit to process legitimate applications for credit. This may be completed online, by phone, or by mail directly with each credit reporting agency. You will need your assigned PIN to temporarily or permanently thaw the freeze.
Other helpful tips for protecting your credit file:
- Parents or guardians may place credit freezes on their children under age 16.
- Federal law allows you to get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting agency to ensure the information is accurate and up to date. Visit AnnualCreditReport for more information.
- Visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Consumer Information page for identity security information.
Your personal information is a valuable commodity, and protecting your financial identity is critical. Take advantage of the tips above to help get an upper hand on identity theft.