It’s official. All Americans can freeze their credit for free. The changes, which were slated earlier this year to go into effect on Friday, September 21, are live on the sites of the three major credit-reporting bureaus — Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.
Money expert Clark Howard’s Credit Freeze Guide provides an in-depth step-by-step guide on how to do it.
Now you can freeze your credit for free
It’s been more than a year since the Equifax data breach, in which the company disclosed that criminals had stolen the personal information of nearly 150 million Americans in a massive hack of their computer system. Social Security numbers, names, address and credit card digits were all part of the trove.
One year later, Congress has made sure that Americans have a no-cost way to put safeguards in place to deflect attacks on their personal info. Here are the new changes given to consumers:
- Unfreeze your credit for free: In addition to freezing your credit without charge, you can unfreeze or thaw your credit for free ,as well.
- Free child credit freezes: Previously, it depended on what state you were in, but now parents and guardians to get a free credit freeze for children under age 16.
- Free fraud alerts: Initial fraud alerts will last for one year, which improves on the previous time period of just 90 days. Identity theft victims can get extended fraud alerts for seven years.
Take this important step BEFORE you freeze your credit
The #1 security issue online these days is identity theft. That’s why Clark says the one thing you need to do before you freeze your credit is to put in place a way for you to monitor your credit. This is what he wants you to do:
- Sign up for a Credit Karma or Credit Sesame account to get free credit monitoring and be notified when anyone tries to access your personal info. Here’s a step-by-step rundown of how to do it.
Free credit freezes: Equifax
The Atlanta-based company now has a webpage on its site that promises three easy steps to freezing your credit.
Once you click the “Get Started” button you will be prompted to fill out an online application that will take you through the process. At the end, you will be issued a PIN. Whatever you do, keep up with it.
Free credit freezes: Experian
At Experian’s Security Freeze Center online, you can put a freeze on your credit, get a PIN, thaw your credit and get a credit report all in the same place.
Once you click the “Add a security freeze” button you will be prompted to fill out an online application that will take you through the process. At the end, you will be issued a PIN. Do not lose it.
Free credit freezes: TransUnion
Visit TransUnion’s Credit Freeze page to enact a security freeze on your credit. Just click the orange “Add Freeze” button. From there you will be prompted to fill out an application.
To thaw your credit, simply go to each of the credit-reporting agency websites and the process will be as easy as freezing your credit.