Free credit freezes
Security freezes, also known as credit freezes, restrict access to your credit file, making it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. Starting September 21, 2018, you can freeze and unfreeze your credit file for free. You also can get a free freeze for your children who are under 16. And if you are someone’s guardian, conservator or have a valid power of attorney, you can get a free freeze for that person, too.
How will these freezes work? Contact all three of the nationwide credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If you request a freeze online or by phone, the agency must place the freeze within one business day. If you request a lift of the freeze, the agency must lift it within one hour. If you make your request by mail, the agency must place or lift the freeze within three business days after it gets your request. You also can lift the freeze temporarily without a fee.
Don’t confuse freezes with locks. They work in a similar way, but locks may have monthly fees. If you want a free freeze guaranteed by federal law, then opt for a freeze, not a lock.
Year-long fraud alerts
A fraud alert tells businesses that check your credit that they should check with you before opening a new account. Starting September 21, 2018, when you place a fraud alert, it will last one year, instead of 90 days. Fraud alerts will still be free and identity theft victims can still get an extended fraud alert for seven years.
How to freeze your accounts
To file a freeze, consumers must contact each of the three major credit bureaus online, by phone or by mail. Here’s the updated contact information for the big three:
Online: Equifax Freeze Page
By phone: 800-685-1111
By Mail: Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, Georgia 30348-5788
By phone: 888-397-3742
By Mail: Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
By Phone: 888-909-8872
By Mail: TransUnion LLC
P.O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016