It's now free to freeze your credit report. Here's how to do it.

Why freeze your credit report?

Freezing your credit report can stop identity thieves from opening new accounts in your name with your Social Security number.

Here’s how it works: Most creditors won’t issue you new credit without first viewing your credit report. If your credit reports are frozen, someone else can’t open an account in your name. You can still use your credit card. Your credit score won’t be affected. You’ll just be safer from identity thieves.

How to freeze your credit reports

First, the bad news: You need to block access to your reports with each of the big three credit bureaus, one bureau at a time. It’s a pain, but freezing your credit report with one bureau and not the others is like locking your front door but leaving your garage and back door wide open.

The three major bureaus are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. While some steps may vary, the process is similar from one bureau to another. Here’s how it works with Equifax:

Step #1 Go to https://www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services and click “Get Started.”

Step #2 If you don’t already have an account, make one. You’ll need to provide your full name, date of birth, address, email and Social Security number.

Step #3 Follow the directions to verify your identity. You may need to enter a code that the credit bureau sends to your email.

Step #4 Click “Place Or Manage A Freeze.”

Step #5 Confirm that you want to freeze your credit report.

Step #6 Download and view your “one-time PDF,” which contains your PIN.

Step #7 This is key: Record your PIN in a safe place. You’ll need it later if and when you want to lift the freeze on your reports.

That’s it. First one done.


Now repeat the steps with the other two big credit bureaus. Some steps will vary but the process is very similar.

Experian: Go to https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html.

(There’s a potentially confusing “Security Freeze Warning” section. It just means you’ll have to unfreeze your credit report before applying for a new loan.)

TransUnion: Go to https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze.

NOTE: Some news outlets have reported that cell phone companies have opened fraudulent accounts using credit reports provided by the National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange (NCTUE). We therefore also recommend freezing your credit report at NCTUE.
NCTUE: Go to http://www.nctue.com/Consumers.

You can also pick up the phone or send a letter to freeze your credit reports. Here are the details:

Equifax:
Phone: 1-800-349-9960 (automated), 1-888-298-0045 (live operator)
Mail: Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, Georgia 30348

Experian:
Phone: 1‑888‑397‑3742 (automated)
Mail: Experian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, Texas 75013

TransUnion:
Phone: 1-888-909-8872 (automated)
Mail: TransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016

NCTUE:
Phone: 1-866-349-5355
Mail: NCTUE Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105561, Atlanta, GA 30348

REMINDER: You’ll receive a PIN for your credit freeze from each bureau. Keep these PINs in a safe place. You’ll use them if and when you want to unfreeze your credit report to apply for a new loan or line of credit.

Can you unfreeze your credit report?

Yes. If you want to unfreeze your credit reports, just go to the links provided above for each of the major credit bureaus and select the “manage” or “remove or lift freeze” options. You can lift a freeze for a particular creditor or for a specific period of time, from one day to one year.

If you request a thaw online or over the phone, your report can be unfrozen within minutes. However, if you don’t have your PIN, it could take longer. Thawing your report by mail definitely takes longer—up to three days upon receipt of your request.

What about credit locks, credit monitoring and fraud alerts?

The credit bureaus offer something they call credit locks. They appear to block access to credit reports the same way that credit freezes do. Here’s the thing: Credit freezes are a right mandated by law. The terms for credit locks are set by the credit bureaus and could change at any time.

Credit monitoring and fraud alerts offer some, but not as much, protection as credit freezes. Neither blocks access to your credit reports. Credit monitoring alerts you to changes in your credit reports. That means it only detects possible fraud after it has occurred. Fraud alerts tell creditors that they should try to verify your identity before opening a new account in your name. If you don’t freeze your credit reports, consider placing fraud alerts on your reports.

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It's now free to freeze your credit report everywhere in the U.S. That's good news for you and bad news for identity thieves. Here's how to freeze your credit today.

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