Getting your name cleared might take a lot of time and effort and sometimes money. Victims of identity theft often suffer months and even years after it occurs. It can seem like you’re the one doing time even though you weren’t the one who committed the crime. To prevent your identity from being stolen, or to prevent further identity theft after your identification has already been stolen, you might consider freezing your credit card report.
How a Security Freeze Works
Your credit report includes information about the payment patterns that creditors and lenders use to make credit decisions about you. When you freeze your credit report, creditors and lenders can’t pull your credit report or credit score – the numeric value given to your credit report – unless you’ve provided the credit bureau with a password to unlock your credit report. Since most banks require a credit check, an application for a credit card would likely be decline. You can freeze your credit report at all three major credit bureaus, but you must do it individually.
The security freeze isn’t entirely foolproof. Creditors and lenders with whom you already have accounts can access your credit report and score without you first unlocking your credit report. Certain law enforcement agencies and other government entities can check your credit report and score despite a security freeze.
The freeze doesn’t affect your credit score though it may make it harder for you to check your credit score through third-party websites.
Should You Freeze Your Credit Report?
Consider placing a security freeze on your credit report if any of the following applies to you.
- You’ve been a victim of identity theft.
- Your credit card number or digits was being stolen
- Your mail has been touched or tampered or even stolen
- You want to protect yourself from identity theft
- You are subscribed to a credit monitoring service
State Law and Security Freezes
Most have laws requiring credit reporting agencies, aka credit bureaus, to allow security freezes on credit reports. However, 9 states (Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Virginia) don’t have such laws. For these states, all three credit bureaus, voluntarily allow consumers to freeze their credit reports.
In most states, the freeze remains in effect until you remove it. In a few countries, the freeze expires after seven years. Check the credit bureau websites for the security freeze laws in your state.
Fees range from $5 to $20 to freeze, temporarily lift the freeze, remove the freeze, or to replace your PIN (the personal identification number used to freeze or unfreeze your credit report). If you’ve been actually a victim of identity theft, there is no fee tied to freeze your credit report. Some states also waive the fees for seniors over a certain age.
How to Freeze Your Credit Report
You must freeze your credit report at each credit bureau separately so far there’s actually no means to freeze all the three credit reports at once.
Requests to freeze your credit report must be made in writing and should include your name, address, date of birth, social security number, a copy of a valid id, proof of address (e.g. copy of utility bill) and payment. You can make Payment by check or credit card.
Related: 4 Simple Steps: How To Pay Online With A Credit Card
Particular Documents for Identity Theft Victims
In most states, you don’t have to pay to freeze (or unfreeze) your credit report if you’ve been a prey of identity theft. Identity theft victims should provide proof of the crime, i.e. a copy of a police report, identity theft report, or DMV report. The credit bureau might not give you back your documents, so send copies not originals. Finally, mail your request via certified mail with return receipt requested to the credit bureau.
After the credit bureau receives your request, it will respond with confirmation that your credit report has been frozen.
You will also receive a PIN or password to use whenever you need to temporarily unfreeze or permanently remove the freeze from your credit report.
Freezing Your Credit Report at Each Credit Bureau
Visit each credit bureau’s site to get comprehensive info on how to place a security freeze on your credit report.
- Equifax: Freeze Equifax Credit Report, 1-800-685-1111 (NY residents 1-800-349-9960)
- Experian: Freeze Your Experian Credit Report, 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion: Freeze Your TransUnion Credit Report, 1-888-909-8872
Note that credit bureaus may experience high call volumes and web traffic after major data breaches and other widespread identity attacks. You may experience long phone wait times and even have difficulty accessing the credit bureau online security freeze forms during these times.
You can also place a security freeze by mail (use certified mail). Make sure you send the following information in your request:
- Your full name, alongside your middle initial any generational suffix (e.g. Jr., II, etc.)
- A Complete current address, and previous addresses for the past two years
- Your Date of birth, month, day, and year
- Social security number
- Proof of identification (e.g. a photocopy of your valid driver’s license, passport, state ID, military ID, or birth certificate)
- Address verification (e.g. utility bill, cell phone bill, pay stub. Do not send a credit cards statement, magazine subscription, voided check, or lease agreement)
- Payment (check, money order, or major credit card)
Below are the credit bureau addresses you should use to mail your security freeze application and documentation.
Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, Georgia 30348
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000
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