Posted on September 28th, 2018
Over the past five years, I have published numerous posts identifying the importance of a credit freeze. A credit freeze simply allows an individual to control how a U.S. consumer reporting agency is able to sell his or her data. This applies to SIX independent credit bureaus. 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 credit reporting bureaus is not available, no institution will allow the creation of a new account with your identity. This means no credit cards, bank accounts, or loans will be approved in your name. In many cases if someone tries 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 can open new lines of credit in your name. This does NOT affect your current accounts or credit score. A credit freeze also provides a great layer of privacy protection.
Now that credit reports are free due to a new federal law (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/2155), I feel it is time to update the procedures for viewing your credit report and then freezing it in all possible locations.
First, I recommend obtaining your entire credit report from Equifax at https://www.annualcreditreport.com. This free report should be used to identify any unknown uses of your identity. If you do not want to submit the request online, you can use the form at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/manualRequestForm.action to mail in the submission.
Next, submit a credit freeze at the “big three” credit bureaus via their online submission options, telephone, or postal mail at the following resources.
By phone: 800-685-1111
By Mail: Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, Georgia 30348-5788
By phone: 888-397-3742
By Mail: Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
By Phone: 888-909-8872
By Mail: TransUnion LLC
P.O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016
Be sure to properly store the PIN provided to you (usually sent via mail). You will need this to un-freeze your credit if desired. Next, submit a freeze request to the “small three” credit bureaus at the following resources.
By Phone: 800-540-2505
By Mail: Innovis Consumer Assistance
PO Box 26, Pittsburgh, PA, 15230-0026
By Phone: 800-887-7652
By Mail: Chex Systems, Inc. Attn: Security Freeze Department
7805 Hudson Road, Suite 100, Woodbury, MN 55125
By Phone: 866-349-5355
By Mail: NCTUE Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105561, Atlanta, GA 30348
Next, navigate to https://www.optoutprescreen.com/ and request to be placed on the Opt-Out list to stop receiving unsolicited credit and insurance offers.
After you have received confirmation that the six credit bureaus have placed a freeze on your credit, navigate back to https://www.annualcreditreport.com and request your free credit report from Experian. This report should acknowledge that a freeze is successfully in place. In a few months, repeat the process for Transunion. You are allowed one free report from each of the three providers every year.
I cannot stress the importance of a credit freeze enough. Anyone with a SSN should submit one right away. The new federal law also mandates that any child with a SSN under the age of 16 can also have a free credit freeze. I highly recommend locking down the entire family.