How To Freeze Your Credit Report

Red Tape Chronicles has a good guide for how to set up a credit report freeze at each of the three major credit bureaus.

A freeze means no one can access your credit report unless you “thaw” your report. This means no new credit cards, loans, or mortgages, either by you, or by a potential identity thief. You will need to freeze the report with each bureaus. Not surprisingly, after fighting with Congress for four years against allowing for consumer freezes, the bureaus have made it difficult, requiring the mailing of certified letters, utility bills, different kinds of personal information, and charging fees. Here’s the step by step:

Red Tape Chronicles writes:

Equifax
General info
State-by-state information
To get a freeze, Equifax wants you to send a certified letter with seven specific elements to Equifax Security Freeze/P.O. Box 105788/ Atlanta, Georgia 30348. The elements are spelled out clearly on the general information page, but they are, basically — name, address, date of birth, SSN, utility bill for proof of address, payment and a police report if you are a victim.

Experian
General info and state-by state information
To get state-specific information, scroll to the bottom of the page and pick your state from the drop-down menu.
Before giving you the information you need, Experian will warn you that a security freeze may make your credit life very difficult. Take that with a grain of salt, and then pick your state. You’ll send the request by certified or overnight mail to Experian/ P.O. Box 9554/ Allen, TX 75013. Again, the recipe is listed on the firm’s Web site, but it will call for a name, SSN, date of birth, current and past addresses dating back two years, a copy of your driver’s license, and one utility bill.

TransUnion
General info and state-by-state information
Send your freeze requests to Trans Union/Fraud Victim Assistance Department/ P.O. Box 6790/ Fullerton, CA 92834. A few state residents can call instead of write — check the link above. Trans Union wants the following on the letter: name, address, Social Security Number, a copy of your driver’s license and payment.

Freezes will cost usually $10 per bureau, depending on your state. Also, if you want to take out a new line of credit, you’ll have to pay to unfreeze your report, and then again to refreeze it. Credit report freezes are free for identity theft victims. For everyone else, it’s a preventative measure, that, considering the possible monetary and psyhic and time cost of untangling identity theft, could be a wise investment.

Now, a way to stop ID theft [The Red Tape Chronicles]
(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. ry81984 says:

    What if you do not receive paper bills? I wonder if they will take internet printouts?

    Also, why do they need a proof of residence when they already have proof based on their reports from anyone that reported to your credit?

    Why is each state different? I live in Indiana so its free for everyone, but why do others have to pay?

  2. zentec says:

    Kudos to the credit reporting industry on turning their lax security that’s exploited by criminals into a profit line. There is no way this should cost $10 other than to deter consumers from trying to protect their credit information.

  3. cablemonkey says:

    Is it possible to prevent credit reporting agencies from gathering information on you in the first place? Can you opt-out of their reporting system?

  4. miball says:

    Interesting read.

    “The Security Freeze may delay, interfere with or prohibit the timely approval of any subsequent request or application you make that involves access to your credit report. This may include, but is not limited to….. internet credit card transactions”

    So do this mean that you can’t buy stuff on the internet? All 3 have this in there. Any idea’s?

  5. castlecraver says:

    Wait… don’t you “thaw” something when you unfreeze it? So wouldn’t “unthaw” actually mean to re-freeze?

  6. FLConsumer says:

    @cablemonkey: Of course they’re going to charge you — they normally make money off selling this info to various companies, usually without your permission to begin with. By opting out, you’re wrecking their business model.

    @miball: I don’t see how this would affect your internet transactions. They don’t involve credit reports unless you’re doing one of those “Pay Later” type deals.

  7. ARP says:

    MIBALL- agree with FLCONSUMER. Unless you are near your credit limit, asking for a higher balance, applying for Pay Later, etc. it should not impact you buying stuff on the internet. Of course, the paranoid side of me thinks, they’d do this just to discourage you from this service.

    I honestly think that “frozen” should be the default, not something you need to request (and pay for). It’s like your browser security settings, the default should not be “low” it should be “medium” or “high.” If you want to east them a bit to get more specialized content (i.e. credit offers), then you should manually do that.

  8. tastic says:

    New Jersey has proposed strong pro-consumer regulations as party of its Identity-Theft Protection Act which are detailed here: [www.state.nj.us]

    Essentially it mandates that consumers be permitted to places a security freeze on their credit and limits the fees which may be charged to lift it. Other provisions of the regulations require physical security and encryption for certain personally-identifiable data. No word on effective date, however.

  9. CurbRunner says:

    How do I meet the Equifax requirement to provide a copy of my utilitiy bills if my landlady lives at another address and pays for my water and power as part of our rental agreement?
    Does my Comcast bill qualify as proof of address?

  10. darkened says:

    Yes comcast is a utility bill that is greater than the need for water or waste disposal.

  11. Amelie says:

    They list a number of exemptions to your freeze, including: “Companies that wish to make pre-approved offers of credit or insurance to you.

  12. Rando says:

    So much documentation and money just for them to click a button…amazing.

    Why are credit bureaus allowed to make money off a system that is required in order to get by in life? When will we stand up and tell them we’ve had enough. This system needs to be standardized…

  13. Amelie says:

    What’s great for residents of some states, is that their legislatures have made it possible to be done over the phone. So, wtf is up with the other states?
    MN, NM, DC and ND residents may make their request by telephone…

  14. vladthepaler says:

    What if you don’t have a driver’s license?

    Anyway, is it really a good idea to give these companies more personal information about you than they already have? They don’t know what you look like. so collecting a photo won’t help them prevent fraud. But I imagine your picture and driver’s license number are worth money on the personal-information market.

  15. Isernhagen says:

    Why are credit bureaus allowed to make money off a system that is required in order to get by in life?

    Credit cards are not required to get by in life…just ask Ted Kaczynski. The fact is, credit cards make modern life tremendously convenient, but they’re a privilege, not a right. If you don’t like the terms of service, you’re always welcome to offer your own credit card on your own terms. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people who think like you would subscribe to it.

  16. dodonnell says:

    @vladthepaler: The credit bureaux likely already have all the information they require you to provide; they’re just doing it to make the process too difficult for the average lazy American… er, rather, to “improve security.” You know, ‘cos they’re all about making (their bottom lines) things secure.

  17. Auntie M. says:

    @miball:
    I’ve had my accounts frozen at all three bureaus for over a year due to identity theft. I’ve never had any problem buying things over the internet.

    Also, at least in my case, if you ask for a freeze it only lasts for 90 days. I had to send in tons of documents for it to last seven years.

  18. magus_melchior says:

    @castlecraver: Maybe Ben was quoting someone who didn’t get enough sleep?

  19. Bilbs says:

    When I turned 18 I was indebted about $13,000. I went to get a cell phone, under my own name, and they said they couldn’t because my credit score was so low. This also affected my student loans to get into college.
    Luckily because I had just turned 18 it was very easy for them to erase my line of credit, change my S.S. and get me started on the right track. Downside, no Credit Card Companies will touch my name because apparently the person who stole my identity, received a bunch of pre approved cards.

    They froze my credit for a few weeks, settled it out, and I didn’t have to pay a dime.

  20. ARP says:

    ISERNHAGEN- Your take it or leave it approach isn’t that realistic. Try to book airline tickets, reserve a hotel room, a car, or countless other things where a credit card is required. These are not exotic events, but everyday stuff. Debit cards don’t always work or they’re not realistic (e.g. a hotel once said I would need to have a balace high enough to put the cost of the room plus another $1000 for “incedentals”.

    I’m sympathetic to the “just don’t do business with them” if there’s a meaningful choice, but when there’s not, I expect some fairness (either self regulated or government imposed).

    You focus on credit cards, and I’m sure your response was specific to that aspect. However, home loans, car loans, background checks for employment (yes, employers run a credit report), etc. all require a credit report.

    So, the big three can determine whether you get a job or not and whether you can afford a house or car. I don’t think I’m over-exaggerating to say that they control many of the levers of our lives and livelihood.

  21. FLConsumer says:

    @ARP: Also remember that your insurance rates are also based on credit scores as well.

  22. Nerys says:

    Actually I disagree with the privilege right analogy. I do not think its EITHER. Its not a right but its also not a privilege I just refuse to call it that. Criminal is what I call it. I always Modify my “terms of service” when I fill out a credit application. I strike out the part where it says we can change these terms anytime we want and add at the bottom Issuing if credit is considered your agreement of these modified terms. They do not even look at them. I wonder if its legally binding? I guess I should make copies of them but there is no way to prove “thats the copy” that they got with my application.

    I had a credit card company (wachovia) give me a nice $5000 line of credit at 9%APR I transfered my criminal 25-31% cards to this. I always paid the bill Never got behind one day my bill is $270 bigger and the interest is now 31.6% or something like that.

    I exploded. I stopped paying the bill and told them they were in violation of our contract. Months went by back and forth with them finally they put it in collection. EACH month I told them I would only resume paying when they resumes the ORIGINAL terms and undid the illegal fees accrued since they illegal changed my terms.

    The guy told me its in the TOS that we can change I immediately halted him and said NO I changed that part of the contract and you guys accepted it when I sent in my application by giving me the Credit Card. He said you can not do that. I said you know something you sound really stupid telling someone they can not do something after they have already done it….

    He said we we do not have a record of this contract I said I do not care. I said I will rot in hell and die before I pay a $5000 balance at 30% There is NOTHING at all you can say that will result in you winning on these terms. I do not care about the damage to me. Its just not going to happen.

    He offered to let me pay it off as a settlement at 2% interest at $250 a month. I could not afford the $250 a month (under the original terms my monthly payment was under $50 and the balance went DOWN ie the interest was something like $12 a month. and he would not budge on the balance. I did not recognize the $2600 in “fees and fines” they added to the balance over the past 5-6 months.

    So we ended up resolving nothing. Later that night I formulated my OWN contract on MY terms. actually all the SAME terms he gave to me with a few changes. First $200 month for 2 months then $100 a month after that (thus was almost identical to what HE wanted me to pay) 2% as he offered but here is where it differed. The balance would be what the balance was before they changed the interest to 31% and the terms would NOT be alterable by EITHER side period unless I default on the payments (missed more than 2)

    I got a call about 2 weeks later they had gotten my “tos” he felt it was amusing I simply said do you hear me giggling?

    He offered me 6 payments of $250. thats it $1500 total. I was taken aback a bit. I still could not afford $250 a month (other bills) so I talked with my boss and he said he would give me a few extra hours a week to allow me to cover it.

    NOW consider this people. They would rather take $1500 on THERE TERMS than $4600 + interest on MY TERMS. How messed up is that? Obviously I took it.

    I will also dispute any report of this negative mark of this settlement on my credit report since it was a result of THERE breech of contract not mine.

    These people are criminals. Pure and simple. They are crooks. Once I am done paying off these cards I am going to SHRED all but 1 of them and be done with it.

    I am DONE with credit. its just BAD NEWS. its so corrupt and biased its disgusting.

    BANKS are getting JUST as bad I am not even going to try and get into that here.

  23. Boberto says:

    @Nerys: The only reason they took it (payment agreement) is because they had already written it off. No doubt you were dealing with the banks collections department. They will get as much out of you before they write it off and resell your debt to several different collection agencies, who will then hound you to no end. Then the bank will arbitrate and perfect a judgement against you via the AAA. That judgement will follow you to the ends of the Earth whenever you try to buy anything. Also don’t be surprised when you see that the judgement amount has none of your payments taken into account.

    This scenario is typical of today’s legal usary. Don’t even think about Bankruptcy, because they’ve diluted that protection as well.

    Even if any of your arguments were valid (about the contract terms), you’ll never get the chance to introduce them because it will be done in a binding arbitration.

    Congratulations. You’re now the Bank’s bitch.

  24. randomizer9 says:

    I had this done not too long ago because of some suspicious activity. You can use your existing credit just fine, but you’ll have to jump through a few hoops if you try to get more.

    To my surprise, this even applies when opening a new savings account! I’m having to send extra paperwork to the the bank just to get that done. Oh well.

  25. Rando says:

    @Isernhagen: Incorrect. It is almost impossible to find an apartment without a credit check anymore. Therefore the system is REQUIRED to get by in life.

  26. itsthatnick says:

    Good post. If something fishy is going on with your credit then you need to know what you are able to do. I recently came across a website that I use along with this one for credit advice. Try [www.creditreports.com]
    If anyone has any other websites similar please let me know.