A credit freeze is one of the most effective ways for you to protect yourself against identity theft and stop criminals from opening lines of credit in your name — and it’s free!
Money expert Clark Howard is a big proponent of freezing your credit whether you’ve been impacted by a data breach or not.
In this article, we’ll show you how to freeze your credit with all three main credit reporting bureaus (plus a lesser known one) by following two simple steps.
It is crucial that you follow the steps in this order:
- First, sign up for free credit monitoring with Credit Karma or Credit Sesame. The reason you need to do this step first is that you’ll need these free tools to monitor your credit going forward to make sure no one is opening accounts in your name. Don’t pay for credit monitoring!
- Then, freeze your credit with all three main credit reporting agencies. Contact Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to have your credit frozen.
Freeze Your Credit with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion
After you’ve signed up for free credit monitoring with Credit Karma or Credit Sesame, you’ll need to contact each of the three major credit reporting agencies individually to freeze your credit with them. You can do this online, via the phone, or through the U.S. mail. Here’s how:
|Credit Bureau||Online||By Phone||By Mail|
|Visit: Equifax Credit Freeze page||1-800-685-1111 (NY residents call 1-800-349-9960)||Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788 Atlanta, GA 30348|
|Visit: Experian Credit Freeze page||1-888-EXPERIAN (1-888-397-3742)||Experian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554 Allen, TX 75013|
|Visit: TransUnion Credit Freeze page||1-888-909-8872||TransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
Important note: If you request your credit freeze via mail, make sure you do so by certified mail. You can use this sample letter to do it. Please be sure to include the attachments necessary to freeze your credit by mail.
How Do I Lift, Unfreeze or Thaw My Credit Freeze?
Once you’ve frozen your credit, you may find that you need to apply for a loan or open a new line of credit. In that case, you’ll need to unfreeze (some credit bureaus may use the terms lift or thaw) your credit with all three main credit bureaus.
The best and easiest way to manage your credit freeze is online on the individual websites of the credit bureaus. When it comes to managing your credit freeze with a PIN, here are some general do’s and don’ts to remember:
- You DON’T need your PIN to manage your credit freeze on equifax.com, experian.com and transunion.com.
- You DO need your PIN to manage your credit freeze via phone or U.S. mail.
In some cases, to manage your credit freeze, you may need to answer some challenge questions as you go through the verification process. To avoid this, keep your PIN someplace safe so you’ll always have it.
If you are having issues unfreezing your credit or retrieving your PIN, your goal at that point is to gain access into your account. Here’s how to get in touch with a live person at the major credit bureaus.
A Fourth Credit Freeze to Consider: The National Consumer Telecommunications and Utilities Exchange
After you’ve frozen your credit with the three major reporting agencies, there is a lesser-known credit bureau you might also want to freeze your credit with.
The National Consumer Telecommunications and Utilities Exchange (NCTUE), which is powered by Equifax, keeps a record of all telecommunication, pay TV and utility accounts reported by exchange members.
How to Freeze and Unfreeze Your Credit With the National Consumer Telecommunications and Utilities Exchange
- Freeze your credit: Get a credit freeze on your NCTUE Disclosure Report under state law or the Exchange Service Center security freeze program by calling 1-866-349-5355. You can also mail your request to:
- NCTUE Security Freeze: P.O. Box 105561, Atlanta, GA 30348
- Unfreeze your credit: Do a temporary thaw of your NCTUE credit freeze by calling 1-866-349-5355 or writing to the address above.
Common Credit Freeze Questions
Team Clark’s Consumer Action Center gets a lot of calls about freezing your credit. Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions:
- How long does it take before your credit freeze is activated? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says that the agency must activate the freeze within one business day if you freeze your credit online or by phone. If you request online that your credit by thawed, the agency must lift the freeze within one hour. If requested by phone, it must be done within three business days, according to the FTC.
- Can I put a credit freeze on my child? Yes, you can. Here’s how to do it with all three main credit-reporting agencies.
- What’s the difference between a credit freeze and credit lock? There’s a big difference. A credit lock costs money in most cases and should not be necessary if you freeze your credit. Read more about it here.
- Can I still apply for a loan or new line of credit with a credit freeze? Yes, but you’ll have to unfreeze (thaw) your credit temporarily. Here’s how to do that.
- Does freezing my credit affect my existing credit cards? No, freezing your credit has no affect on your existing credit cards. You will still be able to use them as you have been. However, if you want to request a credit line increase from your credit card company, you may need to unfreeze your credit.
- How do I sign up for Credit Karma’s free credit monitoring? Here’s a step-by-step walkthrough.
- How do I sign up for Credit Sesame’s free credit monitoring? Here’s a step-by-step walkthrough.
Freezing your credit is the most important step you can take to stop criminals from opening accounts in your name. Don’t forget that it is a two-step process that is FREE for all consumers.
Equifax, Experian and TransUnion all offer credit monitoring services that cost money, but why pay? Credit Karma and Credit Sesame do it without a fee to you.
If you haven’t already frozen your credit, take a few moments today to get it done. The little time you spend following these steps will be well worth it when you consider the peace of mind you’ll have going forward.
If you have more questions about freezing your credit, contact Clark’s Consumer Action Center — a FREE help line open Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m.–7 p.m. ET and Friday from 10 a.m –4 p.m. ET with volunteers available to answer YOUR concerns! Call Team Clark @ 404-892-8227.
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