A law that went into effect Sept. 21 allows you to freeze your credit with all three credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.
Why You May Want to Freeze Your Credit
According to the Federal Trade Commission, a credit freeze, also called a ‘security freeze,’ “lets you restrict access to your credit report, which in turn makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.”
Freezing credit is not something new, however many states allowed the credit bureaus to charge to do so, according to BizJournal.
Congress made credit freezing ubiquitously free after a hack compromised an estimated 143 million people’s personal information on Equifax’s servers in 2017. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) pushed for the Freedom from Equifax Exploitation (FREE) Act.
FAQs about Credit Freeze
From the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information web page:
Does a credit freeze affect your credit score?
A credit freeze has no negative effect on your credit score. It also does not prevent you from getting your free annual credit report. Nor does a freeze prevent you from “opening a new account, applying for a job, renting an apartment, or buying insurance.” However, you do have to lift the freeze before embarking on anything that requires a credit check (more on that later).
What is the difference between a credit freeze and a fraud alert?
A credit freeze prevents a crook from opening up an account using your credit or from identity theft. A fraud alert will not prevent identity theft but will alert you when there is suspicion of something shady going on.
Is credit freezing a 100% guarantee that your data and credit won’t be compromised?
No. According to a post on Experian’s blog, “In the event your credit card number falls into a fraudster’s hands after a data breach, know that a credit freeze won’t help.”
How to Freeze Your Credit
You can freeze your credit online or by calling each individual credit bureau. You will need your Social Security number, name, address, and date of birth. Additionally, each bureau will ask you to verify your identity by answering a series of questions: checking off previous addresses; past loans or leases you may have taken out, etc.
Here are the websites and phone number for each bureau:
Lifting a Freeze
After you’ve placed a freeze, each bureau will provide you with a PIN (Personal Identification Number). You must keep this PIN in a safe place because you will need it whenever you want to lift the freeze.
Also, there have been reports that since the law was passed, the credit bureau’s websites have been inundated with credit freeze requests. There may be some wonkiness with some of the sites (I had trouble placing a freeze on TransUnion’s site this past weekend). If you can’t use the site, call the bureau to place the freeze (and expect long waits to speak to someone, for now).
In the meantime, if you are trying to clean you your credit, check out: