Credit File Security Freeze
After the 2017 Equifax breach of 143 million credit files, you have a 50% or better chance that your financial information was leaked. What should you do? Thanks to a law passed in May 2018, all credit bureaus are required to allow you to freeze your file without any cost (previously this was $10 per bureau in California). The credit bureaus profit by selling your information to their customers (banks, escrow companies, car dealerships). You are not their customer; you are the product they are selling.
FREEZE YOUR CREDIT FILE IMMEDIATELY!
Once the freeze is in place, nobody can pull your credit history without a special random 10-digit PIN sent to you in the postal mail. This is much like a firewall for your credit file -- without the PIN, not even you will be able to pull the report when the freeze is in place. The freeze does not disable your FICO score, which will continue to fluctuate as normal. This does not affect your use of credit cards that are already issued. Despite warnings to the contrary, this is not something that only victims of identity theft should do -- everyone should do this!
On the infrequent occasion when you need to apply for credit (new card, new house, new vehicle), you will need to temporarily "thaw" your security freeze for a few days while the bank, escrow, or dealership runs a credit check. That's it! Read more about the huge benefits of security freezes and the new "Ice Age" at KrebsOnSecurity. Then take a look at the Security Freeze FAQ from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
Security Freeze or Security Lock?
Credit bureaus are not happy about freezes as it prevents them from profiting on your information. Don't be fooled by credit monitoring (Lifelock) or passive security "locks" that falsely claim to be better -- demand a security "freeze" which is legally mandated. You want a deadbolt for your credit report, not a doorman hired to watch for fishy things!
What Else Can I do?
There are smaller information clearinghouse entities that you can ask to freeze your personal information, including Innovis and ChexSystems. It is also a good idea to opt-out of pre-screened credit card offers -- not only do they clutter your mailbox, they are gold to an identity thief. Call 1-888-567-8688 or visit OptOutPreScreen.com to request a permanent opt-out.
If the automated websites above do not load or fail to install a security freeze on your account, you can resort to mailing a paper letter in an envelope with a US postage stamp on it to each of the three major credit bureaus. Include your personal identifying information such as date of birth, social security number, and state Driver's license number:
- Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, Georgia 30348-5788
- TransUnion Security Freeze
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
- Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, Texas 75013