If you have been the victim of a stolen identity, you know that the onus is on you to proactively prove that you are not responsible for the things that someone else did in your name. In light of the 2017 Equifax data breach, one action we recommend is to consider freezing your credit at each of the three major credit reporting companies. Taking this step will make it much more difficult for identity thieves to obtain new credit in your name.
A credit freeze does not:
- Affect your credit score.
- Prevent you from getting a free annual credit report.
- Prevent you from opening a new credit account, applying for a job, renting an apartment, applying for a mortgage or buying insurance. However, if you do any of these things, you will need to lift the freeze temporarily, for either a specific time or a specific party (such as a lender or employer).
- Prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. You still need to monitor all bank, credit card and insurance statements for fraudulent transactions.
How do I place a freeze on my credit?
Contact each of the nationwide credit reporting companies:
- Equifax: 1 (800) 349-9960 or https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp
- Experian: 1 (888) 397-3742 or https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
- TransUnion: 1 (888) 909-8872 or https://www.transunion.com/freeze
You will need to provide your name, Social Security number, and other personal information. Fees vary based on where you live. After receiving your freeze request, each credit reporting company will send you a confirmation letter containing a unique PIN (personal identification number) or password. Keep the PIN or password in a safe place. When and if you eventually chose to lift the freeze, you will definitely need this information.
How do I lift a credit freeze?
To lift your freeze, contact the bureau used by the institution requiring your credit information and provide your PIN to lift the freeze—either temporarily or permanently. You can do this over the phone or online. A credit reporting company must lift a freeze no later than three business days after receiving your request. Again, fees will vary based on where you live.
For more information on California’s process and associated costs, see the Office of the Attorney General’s website at: https://www.oag.ca.gov/idtheft/facts/freeze-your-credit