Every time a big data breach occurs, consumer groups recommend that consumers should put a freeze on their credit bureau accounts at all three credit bureaus. Credit bureaus are companies that collect and maintain individual credit information and sell it to lenders and creditors in the form of a credit report.
If you place a freeze on these accounts, then identity thefts or scammers won’t be able to open new credit cards or get loans in your name without your knowledge because credit reports won't be issued. However, if you want to apply for credit, you’ll need to unlock your freezes.
Credit freezes are free after a law was passed last year.
Placing a freeze on your credit bureau accounts is easy to do online. I finally got around to doing it Tuesday.
Steps to placing a credit freeze are:
- You can place freezes online, over the phone, or in writing.
- You’ll receive a PIN for your credit freeze with each bureau. You need this PIN when you want to unfreeze your credit reports to apply for new credit.
- You’ll also see a place online where you can request a free credit report. Skip doing that when you’re requesting the three credit freezes because you can get mixed up requesting six things. You can get your free credit reports later.
- You need to type the information in carefully if you use the online forms and proofread them well. The systems will kick you out if you make mistakes. Experian makes you send in proof of who you are in the mail and it’s impossible to get their automated phone system to help you fix the problem. Equifax provides a phone number to call if you make a typo or have a problem.
- If you want to temporarily lift a freeze because you are applying for credit, try to find out which credit bureau the business uses to check credit reports. You can save time by only lifting your freeze for that credit bureau.
- You can temporarily lift a freeze for a creditor or for a specific period of time, from one day to one year.
- It can take time to thaw your reports. In most cases if you request a thaw online or over the phone, your reports can be unfrozen within 15 minutes. However, it can take longer if you don’t have your PIN. It can take up to three days after your request if you make it through the mail.
Phone: 800-349-9960, automated; 888-298-0045, live operator
Mail: Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348
Mail: Experian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, Texas 75013
Mail: TransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016
National Consumer Telecommunications & Utilities Exchange
Mail: NCTUE Security Freeze P.O. Box 105561 Atlanta, GA 30348