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What is a credit freeze?

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. Since 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.

A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, makes your credit reports inaccessible to most people, with a few exceptions:

• You can access your own records, including getting your free annual credit reports.

• Current creditors and debt collectors still have access.

• A freeze has no effect on your credit score.

Large data breaches make the news regularly (there have been several more since the massive 2017 Equifax data breach). If you think your data may have been compromised, especially your all-important Social Security number, get a credit freeze. Consider freezing your credit even if your data hasn’t been exposed — yet.

How to freeze your credit.

If you want to freeze your credit, you’ll need to contact each of the three major credit bureaus individually; each has a slightly different process.

You need to provide your Social Security number, birthdate and other information confirming your identity. Here’s contact info for each credit bureau, plus a link if you want a step-by-step guide:

Equifax: Call 800-685-1111 or go online Check out a step-by-step Equifax credit freeze guide.

Experian: Call 888‑397‑3742 or go online. Here’s a detailed walk-through on getting an Experian credit freeze.

TransUnion: Call 888-909-8872 or go online. Read our TransUnion credit freeze guide.

Once a credit freeze is in place, it secures your credit file so nobody can access it unless you give direct authorization to the credit bureaus, usually through a password-protected credit bureau website or PIN. Be sure to keep up with your pin number!

•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.

What are the pros of freezing my credit?

If you’re dealing with identity theft, freezing your credit can offer peace of mind. No one will be able to open credit accounts in your name, which can save you the hassle and cost that come with having your identity stolen. It is the strongest form of protection for the sensitive data in your credit reports, and it is free.

What are the cons of freezing my credit?

Freezing your credit can be inconvenient. You need to contact all three bureaus. You also have to establish accounts with Equifax and TransUnion when you freeze or thaw online, while PINs are required when you unfreeze by phone or postal mail. Meanwhile, Experian requires you to keep track of your PIN to freeze and unfreeze your files regardless of method.

A freeze can give you a false sense of security — you may still be susceptible to credit fraud or other fraud involving your Social Security number.

A credit freeze won’t affect your current accounts, but if a thief steals the information on an existing account, your credit may be used without your permission. It is still important to check statements carefully. Please let us know if you have any questions.

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