If you’re looking to keep your credit data from being accessed, the best way to protect it is a credit freeze, also known as a security freeze. Credit freezes are now free for all consumers.
NerdWallet recommends a freeze for most consumers. If you don’t want a freeze, consider a lock or fraud alert. Fraud alerts last for a year and are renewable. By law, fraud alerts and freezes are free.
You’ll have to freeze your credit with each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Here’s how to do an Equifax credit freeze:
What is a credit freeze?
A credit freeze makes your credit report off-limits to anyone who does not already have access to it. No one else will be able to check your credit until and unless you lift the freeze. That means if scammers try to misuse your personal data to open a fraudulent credit account, they are unlikely to be approved. However, a freeze will not prevent collection agencies or creditors you already have from seeing your credit information.
A credit freeze does not affect your ability to use credit you already have. And a freeze has no effect on your credit score.
A credit freeze does not affect your ability to use the credit accounts you already have. And a freeze has no effect on your credit score.
You can monitor your own credit while it’s frozen by getting reports from AnnualCreditReport.com and signing up for free credit monitoring accounts.
The fastest freeze: online
The easiest way to freeze your credit is via Equifax’s website. You’ll be asked for your name, address, Social Security number and other information to verify your identity in order to set up a password-protected “myEquifax” account.
The page where you begin looks like this:
» MORE: How to unfreeze your credit
Request by phone
You can request an Equifax security freeze by calling 800-685-1111 (except in New York, where the number is 800-349-9960).
Putting it in writing
If you’d rather set up a security freeze via postal mail, the address is: Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348. Your PIN will be mailed to you.
You’ll need to include your full name, including any suffixes, your address, Social Security number and date of birth.
Equifax also asks that you include copies of documents that verify your name and address. Acceptable ones include a passport, driver’s license, military ID, tax documents, bank statements, utility bills, etc.
If you are requesting a freeze on behalf of a minor or other protected consumer, you’ll need to provide information for the person whose credit you want to freeze as well as documentation that shows you have the authority to make the request.