How to Freeze Your Credit Report Some stuff are just better when served cold.  Ice cream. Sushi. Revenge.

There was a joke somewhere in there, linking cold stuff to freezing credit reports, but if you’re reading up on credit freeze because of identity theft problems, the last thing you’d probably want is a lame joke from an online financial nerd.

Fair enough. Here’s a complete breakdown on credit freeze, links to the major credit reporting agency (credit bureau) so you can request a freeze, and links to the fees for freezing your credit reports.

What’s a Credit Freeze?

A credit freeze (also known as a credit report freeze, credit lock down, credit report lock down, or a security freeze) is a way for you to prevent  access to your credit file by anyone (that includes you).   A credit freeze prevents reputable creditors from accessing your credit file, thereby preventing anyone from opening a new account, because the creditor will need to first check your credit report and score before being able to issue you credit.  Because of the way it prevents access to your credit report, a credit freeze is often the best way to stop an identity thief from opening new credit accounts in your name.

What a Credit Freeze Doesn’t Do

Unfortunately, a credit freeze does not prevent an identity thief from using your existing accounts, your existing personal information, or open non-credit checking accounts. Despite this, if you are a victim of identity theft, it is most likely prudent for you to request a credit freeze with the three major credit reporting agencies, as this will limit the damage to your existing accounts.

When Should You Request a Credit Freeze?

If you suspect an identity theft, or that you may be a target of identity theft (lost of personal mail, stolen wallet, stolen statements, etc.), you may want to consider a credit freeze depending on the type of personal information you think may have been compromised.  If your social security number has been stolen or there are evidence of misuse, a credit freeze is probably a good idea.  If your name, address, or phone number has been exposed due to stolen mail or a security breach by an organization, then you might want to consider setting up a fraud alert on your credit report.  A fraud alert differs from a credit freeze in that it does not prevent access to your credit report, but it does notify potential credit issuers to verify your identification before extending you credit.

How To Freeze Your Credit Report

Freezing your credit report can be done by a request to each of the three major credit reporting agency.  47 states and the District of Columbia has enacted laws requiring credit bureau to allow consumers to enable credit freeze.  Although the state of Alabama, Michigan, and Missouri do not have credit freeze laws, the three major credit bureaus have voluntary offered the credit freeze program to residents of those states.

The fees involved in freezing your credit report will vary by state, and is free in any state for an identity theft victim.  In some states, you may be required to submit documentation to waive the fee, such as a police report or identity theft report by a government agency. The fee ranges in $5 to $10 for non-victims, and may cost additional fees when you want to temporarily lift the freeze, or completely remove the freeze.   Check the links below to see the rates for each credit bureaus and your respective state.

Requesting a Credit Freeze with Equifax

Credit freeze page: (Equifax Security Freeze FAQ)
Fees: $5 ~ $10  (Complete fee rate table for all states)

Unfortunately, the only way to request a credit freeze with Equifax is by written request.

Your request should include:

  1. Name
  2. Address
  3. Date of Birth
  4. Social Security Number
  5. Proof of current address (e.g., utility bill)
  6. Payment of fees by check or credit card.

Mail the request by certified mail to:

Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, Georgia 30348

Remember that if you are a victim of an identity theft, to waive the fee associated with placing a credit freeze, you will need to provide documentation such as a copy of the police report or other related government agency report (DMV) that can verify the identity theft.  Once Equifax has received your request and placed the credit freeze, you will receive a confirmation letter from Equifax with a 10 digit security freeze confirmation number.  You will need this number to lift or remove your credit freeze, so keep it in a safe place.

Requesting a Credit Freeze with Experian

Credit freeze request: (Experian Security Freeze Center)
Fees: $5 ~ $10 (Freeze request page to see rates for all states)

You can request a credit freeze with Experian by visiting the Experian Security Freeze Center linked above, and then click on the link “add a security freeze.” Simply follow the instruction to complete your credit report freeze request.

To submit a written request, include the following information:

  1. Your full name, including middle initial and generation (such as JR. SR. II, III, etc.)
  2. Social Security Number
  3. Date of Birth (month, date, and year)
  4. Current address and previous address for the past two years
  5. The fee payment for your request (depending on your state, check link above)
  6. A copy of a government issued identification card (drivers license, state ID, etc.)
  7. A copy of a utility bill or insurance statement

Mail the request to:

Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013

Once Experian has placed your security freeze, you will receive a personal identification number (PIN), that you can use in order to temporarily lift, or remove the credit freeze permanately. You can lift or remove the credit freeze by visiting the Experian Security Freeze Center linked above, or call 1-888-397-3742 (1-888-EXPERIAN). The fee to remove your security freeze will depend on the state you’re located in.  If you’re requesting the removal of the credit freeze by mail, include your identification information and the PIN.

Requesting a Credit Freeze with TransUnion

Credit freeze request: (TransUnion State Security Freeze)
Fees: Free online until 7/14/2009 (Security freeze fee rate table for all states)

You can request a credit freeze with TransUnion by using the TransUnion State Security Freeze linked above.  Requesting a security freeze is free online until July 14, 2009 (in two weeks as of writing).  Click on the “first time here” button to initiate your request, or if you already have an account with TransUnion, use your original login information to start the request process.

To request your credit freeze by mail, include the follow:

  1. Name
  2. Address
  3. Social Security Number
  4. Fee payment (check rate table linked above)
  5. Proof of current residence such as a state issued ID or drivers license

Mail the request to:

Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834

You can also make a request via overnight mail to:

Fraud Victim Assistance Department
1561 E. Orangethorpe Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92831

You can also request the credit freeze with TransUnion by phone.  Call 1-888-909-8872 and use the interactive voice response system.  Have your Social Security Number, address, date of birth, and payment method for the fee ready.  Be prepare to select your own 6-digit PIN for future security freeze related transaction (lifting or removing your freeze).  When you request the freeze by online or mail, you’ll also receive a PIN from TransUnion so you can temporarily lift or remove your credit freeze.

As with the other credit bureaus, if you are a victim of identity theft, you can have the fee waived if you submit a copy of a valid identity theft report, a DMV vehicles investigation report, or similar proof that you have been a victim of identity theft.  If you’re a resident of North Dakota, you can fax your request with your identity theft document to 1-714-525-0668, Attention: Security Freeze Request.

photo credit: wondermonkey2k

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