Credit Freeze

Equifax's massive data breach could affect 143 million people. As consumers search for ways to protect themselves from becoming identity theft victims, financial experts recommend they temporarily freeze their credit files.     

Consumers should consider freezing their credit file

September 14, 2017

Credit Freeze

Are you one of the estimated 143 million Americans who may have had their information stolen in the massive Equifax data breach revealed last week?

If so, financial experts say freezing your credit is one of the first things you should do to protect yourself from identity theft.

What is a credit freeze and how does it work?

A credit security freeze limits who can see your credit report file. You tell the three major credit bureaus not to allow new creditors to view your credit report and score. Since most businesses won’t lend without first checking that report, a freeze can deter identity thieves from forming new accounts in your name.

But, it’s a hassle and it’s not free.

You must notify each of the three major credit bureaus individually since there is no way to freeze them all at once. Requests may be made in writing or online. If you write, you should include your name, address, date of birth, social security number, copy of a valid id, proof of address (such as utility bill), and payment. Payment can be made via check or credit card.

Equifax has said it will waive all fees until Nov. 21 for people who want to freeze their Equifax credit files.  According to The New York Times, a service that ‘locks’ Equifax, Experian and Transunion files simultaneously may be coming soon. That will save lots of time.   

How much does it cost to freeze your credit report?

In Alabama, Experian and Transunion charge $10 to add a freeze and $10 to lift the freeze, unless you have been a victim of identity theft. At Transunion, it is free to add a freeze if you are 65 or older, but must pay $10 to lift it.     

Should you freeze your credit report?

Consider placing a security freeze on your credit report if any of the following applies:

  • You have been the victim of identity theft.
  • Your credit card number has been stolen.
  • Your mail has been tampered with or stolen
  • You want to protect yourself from identity theft.

A freeze won’t protect you if the crook already has your credit card number and account number for an existing credit card in your wallet.

Here are some other steps the Federal Trade Commission recommends you take to help protect yourself after a data breach:

  • Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free — by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. 
  • Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.
  • Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
  • If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
  • File your taxes early — as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.

To place a freeze on your credit reports, you need to call the credit reporting companies. There are three big ones — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — and one smaller one, Innovis. You should freeze your credit at all four.  Here are the numbers to call:

  • Equifax — 1-800-349-9960 
  • Experian — 1‑888‑397‑3742
  • TransUnion — 1-888-909-8872
  • Innovis — 1-800-540-2505

For additional information on credit freezes visit:

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