Given the huge fall-out from the recent Equifax breach, you should be taking steps to protect your credit. Today’s challenge is to freeze your credit in an attempt to keep unauthorized persons from running up debt in your name.
Not everyone should freeze his or her credit right now. If you are nearing the purchase of a new home or vehicle or some other debt, you may wish to wait–or you could spend the money to freeze your credit and thaw it later or even place a fraud alert instead of a security freeze on your credit report. But if you have no such concerns and no plans to acquire any new debt in the very near future, you may wish to spend the money (yes, there is a cost despite the Equifax breach) to freeze your credit. You can thaw the freeze or lift it entirely later. (Note: If you have a security clearance, you’ll have to make the decision if whether to freeze it with whatever information you have available. My husband has a top secret security clearance and asked, but the Department of Defense hasn’t yet advised whether he should freeze his credit at this point)
What I Did
I completed two of three security freezes online by logging into each credit reporting agency and searching for its freeze ability. I did have to handle this task late at night because of how heavily the various web sites have been impacted by people trying to freeze their credit. Unfortunately, I have not yet been successful at completing a security freeze with Transunion because of some major delays and errors within that organization. (For this reason and a host of others, I’m thankful to be a long-time beneficiary of two identify theft insurance policies, one with Zander, which I will review this week.)
The cost to place a security freeze with the credit reporting agencies varies by state. Check the links below for more information and to determine what the cost will be:
Please be aware that the credit reporting agency’s sites are overworked right now, so you may want to try finishing this challenge late at night or early in the morning. Also, you must freeze your credit with all three sites (best of luck!).
- Ensure that your computer is up-to-date.
- Run an anti-virus and anti-malware scan.
- To place a credit freeze with Equifax, do the following:
- After you have verified that your computer is up-to-date and virus- and malware-free, visit freeze.equifax.com to place a security freeze on your credit file with Equifax.
- Verify that your information is encrypted. You should always do this when you enter sensitive information!
- Confirm twice that you want to freeze your credit.
- Print your confirmation and your PIN, which should be located within a PDF shown on-screen. I also recommend saving your confirmation page and your PIN to your computer. To print the confirmation page to PDF if you have Microsoft Windows, press Control and the P key at the same time. Then select “Microsoft Print to PDF” as your printer and click Print. Save your file with whatever file name and wherever you wish. (As I’ve mentioned before, I save everything on an external hard drive on our network.) To save the PIN page, right click within the window and click on “Save As.” Again, save your file with whatever file name and wherever you wish, Verify that both files saved by opening them before you close the confirmation page.
- Close your browser.
- To place a credit freeze with Experian, work through these steps:
- Visit Experian to place a security freeze on your credit file with Experian.
- Verify that your information is encrypted. I cannot say this enough: You should always do this when you enter sensitive information!
- Click on “Add a security freeze.”
- Click on “Apply online.”
- Wait for the next page to load. It may take a while. I was unsuccessful three times before finally getting the page to load. When the page loads, enter your information.
- Read the terms and conditions, and click “Submit” if you agree to them.
- Enter your credit card information if there is a fee for you.
- Answer the security questions.
- Print your confirmation. Again, I recommend saving your confirmation page to your computer. To print the confirmation page to PDF if you have Microsoft Windows, press Control and the P key at the same time. Then select “Microsoft Print to PDF” as your printer and click Print. Save your file with whatever file name and wherever you wish. (Again, I save everything on an external hard drive on our network.)
- E-mail the PIN to yourself by clicking on “Email my PIN.”
- Click “Logout.”
- Click “Logout” again.
- Close your browser.
- Placing a credit freeze with Transunion is trickier because doing so online requires an account:
- Visit freeze.transunion.com to place a security freeze on your credit file with Transunion.
- Verify that your information is encrypted. One more time: You should always do this when you enter sensitive information!
- If you do not have a Transunion account, click on the Register button.
- Complete the information on the next page. Then click “Continue.”
- Create a user name and secure password. Then complete the remaining information.
- Complete the remainder of the process. I was unable to do so online over a span of 48 hours (I initially intended to publish this post on Monday rather than Thursday of this week), and contacting Transunion has been completely fruitless for me. Online I received an error message: “Due to the Equifax data breach we are experiencing extremely high volumes and cannot fulfill your request at this time. We sincerely apologize and ask that you try again later.” By phone, I waited a lengthy period of time simply to be disconnected. The automated security freeze service did not work for me on the phone; it claimed it was “unable to process my request at this time.” I tried contacting Transunion via its Facebook page, but no one is responding.
- Print any confirmation that appears. Print the confirmation to PDF, too, using the instructions above.
- Close your browser.
According to Clark Howard, you can also call to place security freezes with Experian at 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) and Transunion at 1-888-909-8872 or send requests for a security freeze to all three companies via snail mail:
- Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA. 30348
- Experian, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX. 75013
- TransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016
If you request your credit freeze in writing, please ensure you mail the request via certified mail with return receipt requested and calendar a date to follow-up on the tracking on those to confirm their receipt.
How Did You Do?
Did you freeze your credit? Were you successful at doing so? Did you do so on the Internet or by phone or mail? How much time did you spend freezing your credit? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!