Credit Freeze Information in the Wake of the Equifax Hack
I guess I touched a nerve with my post about the Equifax hack last week. Over 600 people have viewed it so far. This week’s post is the sequel. I’m pleased to report that, after 8 dropped phone calls, 3 inaccessible web sites, and 2 certified mail requests, I have (finally) frozen all my credit with four credit reporting agencies, probably for the remainder of my life.
Credit experts recommend that consumers freeze their credit to reduce their risk of becoming an identity theft victim. This has to be done individually with each of the “Big Three” credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), plus some experts also recommend doing a freeze with a lesser-known credit reporting agency called Innovis to “cover all the bases.” That means making 4 separate freeze requests per person or 8 requests for a couple.
By freezing your credit, you prevent potential creditors from accessing your credit file, thereby preventing identity thieves from opening accounts in your name. However, credit freezes will not deter non-credit related frauds such as tax refund identity theft and health insurance fraud. For that, consumers are simply told to “be vigilant.”
Credit freeze requests can be made online, by phone, or by certified U.S. mail. Expect to devote some time to this task. Below is contact information for each credit reporting agency for each method of contact to request a credit freeze:
Equifax: Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348
Experian: Experian, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion: TransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016
Innovis: Innovis Customer Assistance, P.O. Box 26, Pittsburgh, PA 15230-0026
The costsof security freezes vary from state to state. Fees may or may not be charged to add a credit freeze, temporarily lift (thaw) a credit freeze (e.g., when you need to apply for a loan), and remove a credit freeze. Different fees for credit freezes may also apply depending on whether someone is or is not a victim of identity theft. Equifax has waived their fee for everyone until November 21.
For mailed security freeze requests, include the following information in a cover letter format:
Full name (with middle initial) and former name, if applicable
Current address and former addresses within the last five years
Social Security number
Full date of birth (month, day, year)
Photocopies of two forms of identification such as a government-issued identity card and proof of residence such as phone bill or utility company bill.