Posted on November 19th, 2016
In 2011, I first posted about the importance of a credit freeze. I believe that there is an even greater need today to protect your credit report. The following update includes a fourth service that should be contacted as well as mailing and website address updates. This information should replace the details in the books. A complete PDF guide to a credit freeze is absolutely free after signing up for my newsletter HERE.
People often ask me about paid services such as Lifelock and Identity Guard, and how effective they are at protecting your identity. These services can be very effective, but you pay quite a premium for that protection. Personally, I simply freeze my credit. It’s easy, usually free, and reversible. What is all this frozen credit nonsense? Wikipedia says it best:
“A credit freeze, also known as a credit report freeze, a credit report lock down, a credit lock down, a credit lock or a security freeze, allows an individual to control how a U.S. consumer reporting agency (also known as credit bureau: Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) is able to sell his or her data. The credit freeze locks the data at the consumer reporting agency until an individual gives permission for the release of the data.”
Basically, if your information stored by the four credit reporting bureaus is not available, no institution will allow the creation of a new account to your identity. No credit cards, bank accounts, etc. If someone decides to use your identity, but cannot open any new services, they will find someone else to exploit. I can think of no better motivation to freeze your credit than knowing that no one, even yourself, can open new lines of credit in your name. This does NOT affect your current accounts or credit score and are simple to suspend when needed.
Credit freezes are extremely easy today thanks to State laws that mandate the credit bureaus cooperation. I will walk you through the process.
The first step will determine whether your credit freeze will cost you any money. The fee for the freeze is $10 for each of the four bureaus ($40). While this is well worth the protection, most states have a law that entitles identity theft victims a waiver of this fee. There is a great comparison of state laws on this at THIS LINK, and an interactive tutorial at THIS LINK. Currently, each of the four credit bureaus voluntarily waive this fee for victims of identity theft. A large portion of my readers have had some type of fraudulent financial activity. This may be an unlawful charge to a debit or credit card, or something more serious such as someone opening an account in your name. If you have had any fraudulent charges or activity, contact your local police to obtain a police report. Many departments, such as mine, have a form that the victim completes which becomes the report. Request a copy when complete including a case number.
Complete four packets that will be mailed certified mail. One will go to each of the four credit bureaus. Each packet will include the following.
A letter requesting the credit freeze. This letter should include the following information.
Social Security Number
Date of Birth
The following is an example:
Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000
January 1, 2016
To whom it may concern,
Please accept this letter as an official request for a Security Freeze on my TransUnion credit file. Per your instructions, I have included a photocopy of my driver’s license and recent pay documentation. Below are my details.
John Patrick Doe
1234 Main Street
Chicago, IL 61234
December 1, 1980
I further request waiver of any fees due to my recent status as an identity theft victim in the State of Illinois. I have attached a photocopy of my police report.
Include a copy of your police report if you have one. If you do not have a police report, and do not want the $40 fee waived, you can complete the entire process online at the EACH following three sites.
Enclose a copy of your valid driver’s license or State ID, and a copy of pay stub, utility bill, insurance statement, or another official document that proves your identity. I made a copy of my license and a pay stub, and included this copy to each of the four requests.
These four packets will be addressed to:
Equifax Security Freeze
PO Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348
Experian Security Freeze
PO Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000
Innovis Consumer Assistance
PO Box 26
Pittsburgh, PA 15230-0026
Next, I recommend obtaining a copy of your current credit report, before it is frozen, at http://annualcreditreport.com. Look over this closely, and make sure everything is accurate.
Within a few weeks, sometimes sooner, you will receive a package from each of these bureaus confirming your credit freeze. They will also include a PIN number that you need to keep. This number will be required if you ever want to temporarily or permanently reverse the credit freeze.
If you want to reverse the credit freeze, you can do this online at the above websites. There will be a $10 fee per agency to do this. If you want this fee waived, you need to submit the request via mail again and include another copy of the police report. A temporary un-freeze would be done in the case that you want to establish new credit such as a credit card or loan. Be sure to generate this temporary reversal prior to the loan request, otherwise your loan may be denied. A permanent reversal will completely stop the freeze,and your account will be back to normal. Again, there is that $10 fee each time, which can be waived with a police report.
Unless you are constantly opening new lines of credit or use your credit to purchase real estate often, I highly recommend a credit freeze. It is simply the most effective way of stopping people from using your identity for financial gain. Lately, people are reporting that their under-age children are becoming ID theft victims. This freeze could apply to them as well. This will NOT stop someone from stealing your current credit card numbers. I have tips for that coming soon.