If getting your identity stolen and having to prove to creditors that you didn’t buy ten flat screen TVs and then skip town doesn’t sound like your idea of a fun Friday night, then you might be wondering how you can guard against it. While you could sign up for a credit monitoring service, there’s another way to help stop identity theft in its tracks or to prevent it. All you have to do is put a security freeze on your credit report.
When you freeze your credit report, the credit bureaus are not allowed to share your credit report and score with new creditors. Since most lenders won’t lend money or open new credit accounts without checking a borrower’s credit report, having a credit freeze on your report will stop thieves from being able to take out new lines of credit if they’ve already targeted you or potentially stop them from targeting you in the first place. While it won’t stop identify thieves from using your existing credit accounts, it will limit the damage that they can do.
How Do You Freeze Your Credit Report?
In order to completely freeze your credit report, you have to contact all three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Freezing your credit report is relatively easy and cheap, but it isn’t free.
There are fees of around $5 to $20 in order to freeze and unfreeze your credit report at each bureau and you’ll have to contact each bureau and pay the fees separately as there is no way to freeze credit on all your reports at once.
The amount you’ll pay varies depending on the state that you live in, but you could potentially get a discount if you are over the age of 65 or if you have proof that you are the victim of identity theft.
In the latter case, you will need a copy of your Federal Trade Commission identity theft record and either the police report or the DMV investigative report.
How to Freeze and Unfreeze Your Credit Report at TransUnion
To perform a credit freeze at Trans Union, you can go online or do it over the phone at 1-888-909-8872. You can also do it via mail. Your credit freeze application will include things like your name, your address and any addresses you’ve lived at within the last two years, your social security number, your date of birth, your proof of identification (a photocopy of your driver’s license, birth certificate, or other state issued ID), your payment and something to verify your address such as a pay stub, utility bill, or official government communication like a statement from the IRS). You’ll need to mail it to this address:
Trans Union LLC
PO Box 2000
To unfreeze your credit at Trans Union, you can do this in three different ways as well. You can either request that your credit freeze be lifted on their website by inputting your PIN, you can call their customer service line, or you can mail a credit freeze lift or termination request at the address above and include your PIN number, as well as the documentation that you used to set up the freeze.
How to Freeze and Unfreeze Your Credit Report at Equifax
To request a freeze on your credit at Equifax, you can go online, call them at 1-800-685-1111 or send them a credit freeze application with the same documents that you sent to TransUnion. Their address is:
Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, Georgia 30348
To lift your security freeze with Equifax, you can either request it with your PIN on their website, call their customer service line or mail your request with your PIN number and two forms of IDs to the address above.
How to Freeze Your Credit Report at Experian
To request a freeze via Experian, you can go online, call them at 1-888-397-3742 or send them a credit application to this address:
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
To lift your security freeze with Experian, you can either do so online by inputting your PIN, call their toll-free number, or send your request via mail.
What Happens When You Freeze Your Credit Report?
When you freeze your credit report, each credit bureau gives you a personal identification number (PIN) that will allow you to either reinstate your credit report or temporary lift the freeze. In most states, the freeze lasts indefinitely, but in some states it expires after 7 years.
Make sure to keep your PIN number in a safe place since, if you decide you want to apply for credit in the future, you will have to either lift the freeze permanently or temporarily. If you are applying for new credit, you’ll have to lift the freeze on all three bureaus unless you know which bureau the creditor will be contacting. Just make sure you plan ahead – it can take up to five business days in order to lift a credit freeze.