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What Happened When I Tried to Freeze My Credit Report

Last week, following the Equifax data breach, I wrote a blog outlining steps to take to protect yourself. As affected consumers ourselves, my husband and I decided to freeze our credit reports at the three major bureaus: Transunion, Experian and Equifax.

Below is an outline of the bumpy road that followed with tips and step-by-step instructions that I hope will help you if your goal is to freeze your credit reports as well.

Per experts, using the automated phone system is the most secure way to freeze your credit report. Thus, we each attempted that first with each bureau. 

Locking Credit Reports at Each Bureau

Transunion

Kudos to Transunion! My husband and I both easily locked our credit reports via the automated Transunion phone system on the first try--we each called individually. It was quick and easy for both of us. Below are the steps to initiate a credit freeze at Transunion:

  • Call 1-888-909-8872
  • Enter your zip code
  • Choose option 3
  • Follow prompts, entering: Social Security Number (SSN), Date of Birth (DOB), numeric portion of home address
  • Enter a six-digit code you would like to serve as your pin (have this ready when you call!)
  • You’re then prompted to pay the $7.50 fee (Tennessee’s fee) by credit card over the phone. Note: fees vary by state.
  • Per the system, a notification packet will be mailed & received within 5-7 business days

Equifax

I tried twice to freeze via phone but was told the system could not process the request. My husband experienced the same. Thus, while not the preferred option, I tried and succeeded in freezing my credit report online. My husband was not able to freeze his online. Both of his attempts led to a system error. Several business days later, he tried again to freeze his via phone and were successful. Below are the steps for a credit freeze (Equifax & Experian calls it a “security freeze”) via the automated phone system at Equifax:

  • Call 1-800-349-9960
  • Press 1
  • Enter: SSN followed by the Numeric portion of your home address
  • Press 1
  • Pay applicable fee via credit card ($7.50 for Tennessee)
  • The system reads a 10 digit PIN to you – have a pen handy!
  • Per the system, a confirmation package will also be mailed

Experian

My husband and I tried the automated phone system five times each, over the course of four days before we were successful. We were continually told the system could not process our requests. Additionally, we tried the online system –we each failed three times. Thankfully, we were each successful the fifth time over the phone earlier this week.. Below are the steps:

  • Call 1-888-397-3742
  • Press 2 For Security freeze
  • Press 2 again
  • Press 1
  • Press 2 
  • Enter: SSN, DOB, Zip, Numeric portion of home address
  • Pay applicable fee via credit card ($7.50 for Tennessee)
  • The system explains you will receive a mailed confirmation with a PIN

Where does this leave you?

  1. If you decide to move forward with freezing your credit it may be a lesson in patience. I feel certain the hiccups we hit relate to high demand. That’s understandable (though no less frustrating) considering the events as of late.
  2. Just because my husband and I hit snags doesn’t mean you will. My current recommendation to clients is to continue to attempt to freeze their credit reports via phone first, then via the online system(s), with a mailed/upload request as the last resort. Thankfully, we’ve heard from several clients who have had no trouble locking their credit—one even said it was “easy-peasy.”

Whether or not you freeze your credit, there are other steps you should take to protect yourself from identify theft. Below are a few specifics:

  • File your tax return as soon as possible. This will reduce the risk of someone filing a fraudulent return using your social security number.
  • Be suspicious of every communication relating to your personal or account information. If you receive an email or phone call requesting you verify personal or account information or suggesting you click a link, do not respond or release any information. If it raises a red flag to you, don’t dismiss that. Do not release any information until you’ve called the appropriate institution to confirm the communication is from them.
  • Improve your account security.  Add transaction watches to your credit cards, bank accounts, etc. I receive an email every time there is a transaction on my credit card without the card present. There are many features available. Call your bank, credit card company, etc., or login and search for “security features.”
  • Make it difficult for fraudsters to guess your information. Be mindful of what you put “out there.” For example, if you post about your pet frequently on Facebook, don’t use your pet’s name as your password or as an answer to a security question.

Taking the preceding steps allows us as consumers to be proactive in protecting ourselves—even when the release of our personal information may be out of our control.