OCS banner and logo
Keeping clients' computers safe and profitable for over 30 years

Home Forms About Current Newsletter subscribe 
Search All Articles

Browse by Category

powered by pmc2m


Doing a Credit or Security Freeze

I did an article in March of 2015 on Credit or security freezes. In the wake of the Equifax scandal (some people call it a breach, I call it a debacle), I finally went about actually doing a full security freeze on my credit reporting. Here's an explanation of the freeze, what I did, and what I've noticed since. Since I am older and no one needs to be checking my credit, it is unlikely to be a hassle for me. This process is more problematic if you are younger and frequently getting new credit cards, renting an apartment or creating new lines of credit or changing jobs.

What is a credit or security freeze?

A credit or security freeze restricts access to your credit reports. It will not affect your current creditors; it will not stop you from getting your annual credit reports. The government will also be able to access your reports. However, if someone tries to apply for a credit card, loan, or rent something in your name, that new creditor will not be able to get a credit report and will probably not offer the loan or credit card. It doesn't stop identity theft, but it is probably your best protection against anyone being able to use the stolen identity.

If for some reason you need to let a bank or someone access your credit report, you can easily unfreeze your credit reports. Credit freezes do not affect your credit rating. I still get the monthly TransUnion review from my credit card company.

Remember, however, that someone could still make unauthorized transactions on your current credit cards, so you still need to monitor those.

How do I unfreeze?

If you ever need to take out a loan or want a new credit card, you can lift the freeze for a short time period to allow the creditor to check the credit bureau. You can do a temporary lift or a complete end to the freeze.

What does it cost?

Costs vary by state. In Oregon, the three major credit agencies charge $10 each to freeze your credit. You will be charged another $10 to lift the freeze. So it costs $30 to freeze all three credit agencies. I also froze Innovis, which did it for free.

How is it done?

The easiest way is to go online to each of the four credit agencies and fill out their online form.

I found all of them very easy to fill out except for the incompetent Equifax, which is frequently off-line.

After filling out the forms they will charge your credit card the $10. Then they give you a personal identification number to be used to unfreeze your report. You need to keep that number to use to unfreeze your credit reports if you need to later. Innovis sent the number to me in a letter, but the others simply displayed it after filling out the forms. Do not lose that number! I copied that number into KeePass making separate entries for each agency for a credit freeze. Now I've got all four agencies in my KeePass password safe along with the link to their unfreeze page and my secret pin number.

If you do not use a password safe or are not comfortable storing critical information electronically, then print out the numbers and put them in your safety deposit box. Remember, you are protecting your accounts from identity theft, so these agencies need to assume that a bad actor has your address, phone number, social security number and birth date. If you lose your unfreeze pin, they should make it very very difficult to prove your identity, otherwise, the process can be broken.

You could also try calling them, but this is really much harder and I was unable to get Equifax to complete the freeze over the phone. They had a robot system that simply didn't work. I did not try calling any of the others. However, if you aren't comfortable online, here are the phone numbers.

  • Equifax: 800-349-9960
  • Experian: 888-397-3742
  • TransUnion: 888-909-8872
  • Innovis: 800-540-2505

TransUnion had me set up an account so I could manage my freezing and unfreezing online. That same account can be used to get annual credit reports from them. They were also courteous enough to email me the pin number in addition to the notice after placing the freeze. After securing the unlock pin in a safe place delete any email or other insecure record of that pin.

Pre-Approved credit cards

I also opted out of Pre-approved credit cards. I'm happy with my current credit cards and do not expect to change soon. The risk of Pre-approved cards is that they could be taken out of your mailbox and used. Since they are Pre-approved, your credit freeze might not prevent their creation. This is a method of identity theft. The four credit reporting agencies banded together to provide this informative and easy to use website to opt out of Pre-approved credit cards: https://www.optoutprescreen.com/?rf=t

I opted out for 5 years. That seemed the simplest.

Further reading

Date: October 2017

Creative Commons License
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

  Please direct questions/suggestions about website to the webmaster