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Freezing for a Good Cause – Credit, That Is

By Suzi Hoge
Posted: 05/02/2024
Tags:

If you are like many other Americans, you may have been receiving multiple notifications informing you that your personal information or your personal data has or may have been compromised. Sometimes it is just a notification. Some notices also include a “complimentary” one- or two-year membership to a credit-monitoring company, with a website address and code to use to enroll. 

What to do?

After receiving four of these notices from major “secure” sources in the last year, I decided it was time to freeze my credit. I am inviting you along to see how it is done.  This is the layperson’s version — no fancy financial talk. 

What is a credit freeze? (It is also called a security freeze.) This freeze stops businesses or individuals from being able to check your credit report, which is routinely done when you open a credit card, apply for a job, rent an apartment, buy a car, etc.  This freeze makes it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. It is free to put a credit freeze on permanently or temporarily, and to lift it.

How do you do a credit freeze? You will need to contact the credit monitoring companies. You can do this by creating an account, whether online, by telephone, or by mail. You get to choose the method. But you must do it 3 times. There are 3 credit monitoring companies – Experian, Equifax, and Trans-Union. Each of these companies is in the business of rating your credit and selling this rating to folks who do business with you. 

In this article I will lay out the alternative methods separately. 

What information will you need?

·         Full name

·         Social Security number

·         Date of birth 

·         Current address — and previous address if less than 5 years

·         Copy of a government-issued identification (if doing it by mail)

·         Utility bill, bank, or insurance statement with name and address (if by mail)

You will set up a password OR pin number for each account — very important to write these down, as they will be needed to unfreeze your account. 

Note: Unfreezing accounts take 1 hour through online or phone methods – 3 business days for written method. 

 

Want to apply for your credit freeze online?

You will need to create an account for each credit monitoring company.

First, look over the items that are needed and gather them before you begin. Also, have paper and pen/pencil handy for noting website address, passwords, etc. Engage your patience, as you will move through several screens to get where you want to go. It is not hard, just a bit tedious. Have your cell phone handy, as verification codes will be messaged to you.

Experian Security Freeze – www.experian.com

                        Home on the website opens up. 

Top right – select sign in

Then another screen opens – You can select “Create an account” or “Need help with credit freeze”

Create an Account. Fill in the needed information to create an account. 

You may have to provide the last four digits of your Social Security number and then your mobile phone number.

You may get a list of statements that you’ll need to read over and choose the correct answer or “none of the above.” This is to confirm your identity.

You’ll need to provide a user name and password. (minimum of 8 characters, at least 1 upper case, 1 lower case, 1 number, and 1 special character).

Then your account will be created.

You’ll be asked to select a security question and provide an answer.

Wait, you are not done yet. 

After you have an account, you need to freeze your credit.  

The initial page that opens says “credit lock” – Scroll to the bottom of the page to select Security Freeze

 Think 2 steps for each company – create an account --- and then freeze! 

            Equifax Security Freeze – www.equifax.com

                        From the home page, go to the Consumer Services Center, then Credit Freeze. You’ll need to set up an account with a user name and password. A code will be sent to your cell phone and you’ll need to input the code (to confirm your identity). Step 2 – freeze your credit. You can download a pdf of the freeze notification if you would like.

            Transunion Security Freeze - www.transunion.com

                        Home page – you can select  “Add a Freeze” – which will lead you to create an account. You will need to provide a user name and password. Also select a security question and answer. This company emailed a verification where I needed to confirm my email. I had to select a secret question and answer. A code was sent to my phone to verify identity. Once all done with this, I could freeze my credit.

 

Want to apply for your credit freeze by phone?

First, look over the items that are needed and gather them before you begin. Also have paper and pen/pencil handy for noting information, passwords, etc. 

Experian Security Freeze – 1-888-397-3742

            Equifax Security Freeze – 1-888-378-4329

            TransUnion Security Freeze – 1-800-916-8800

 

Want to apply for your credit freeze by mail?

First, look over the items that are needed and gather them before you begin. Also have paper and pen/pencil handy. 

o   Experian Security Freeze – PO Box 9554, Allen, Texas 75013

o   Equifax Security Freeze – PO Box 105788, Atlanta, Georgia 30348

o   TransUnion Security Freeze – PO Box 160, Woodlyn, Pennsylvania 19094

To freeze your credit report by mail, you can write to each of the addresses listed above. Written requests should include the following:

·  Your full name, including middle initial (and generation)

·  Social Security number

·  Complete addresses for the past two years

·  Date of birth

·  One copy of a government-issued identification card, such as a driver's license or state ID card

·  One copy of a utility bill, bank or insurance statement or similar

Notes from a user:

I worked through freezing credit online and then observed my husband freezing his and taking notes for this article. Different screens came up, so, while I tried to be specific, be prepared to flex and read screens carefully to get where you want to go.

One of the letters I received contained a two-year paid membership to Experian IdentifyWorks. I signed in, put in the special activation code and created a membership.  Interestingly, I could not then access anything to get to freezing my credit.

Plan B – I signed into Experian.com, opened a different account there with a different email and password. After that account was opened, I could then freeze my credit. 

With Transunion the final action to open an account was to confirm my email. An activation email was sent. I opened it immediately, hit the activation button, but was greeted by “activation email has expired.” After trying this several times, I vowed to return on a weekday when I could call the 800 help number as needed. On that day, I had to sign in and was able to do the activation easily. Then, on to freezing the account. 

For a show & tell video on YouTube: “All Things Secure – How to Do a Credit Freeze” https://youtu.be/AV70YFXIQa8?si=D1n82saEEoWyCKhL

Other resources:

https://states.aarp.org/maine/scam-prevention-tip-place-a-freeze-on-your-credit-report

https://www.usa.gov/credit-freeze

 

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