Since the Equifax debacle we’re being told to do “a credit freeze”, but that’s misleading. Each person actually needs four credit freezes. “A credit freeze” is not complete until Equifax, Experian, TransUnion and Innovis, the lesser known bureau, are individually ordered to place a “credit freeze” or “security freeze” on your personal credit file.
I did this online at all four credit bureaus, yesterday. The following provides a link to each bureau’s freeze web-page, a description of what to expect and the level of complication.
Before you Start: All ask you to enter personal data including your social security number, address and birthdate. Some seek additional verification. You may be asked specifics about a mortgage lender, an auto loan, personal bank accounts, etc… Having your records handy is important.
Innovis Freeze – Very Easy. It’s a simple process to initiate a security freeze (credit freeze). No PIN is required and no fee is paid. Innovis confirms the request online and indicates that a letter will be mailed to your address confirming the freeze.
Experian Freeze – Moderate effort, with a small fee. Fees vary by state. I was charged $10. All customers are given the opportunity to select their own PIN. Keep the PIN in a secure place. The PIN is required to unfreeze your credit.
TransUnion Freeze – More complicated, two options provided. TransUnion offers the option to initiate a credit freeze, or enroll in a free service called TrueIdentity, a free personal account to control your credit file directly. You can “lock” or “unlock” your credit directly from your online account. This requires setting up a TrueIdentity account, selecting a personal username and a secure password. After that, it’s easy to “lock” your credit.
Equifax – Most complicated, several processes required to deal with the data breach and also initiate a credit freeze.
Check Your Data & Enroll: The Equifax data breach website prompts you to enter 6 of your social security digits to check the status of your data. Then, they don’t confirm or deny any theft. Instead, I received a cryptic message indicating that my data may have been compromised. From there I was prompted to sign up for the TrustedID Premier credit monitoring service free for 1 year (the people who lost our data, now want us to feel confident that they can monitor our data – Ha, Ha).
I signed up successfully, but only partially. Due to “high volume of enrollments”, a confirmation email from Equifax “may take several days to arrive” (Huh?). I don’t appear to be fully enrolled yet.
Equifax Credit Freeze: I entered personal information in a 3 step process at the Equifax credit freeze website. They do not require you to set up a personal account or password. They do select a PIN for you. Keep the PIN safely accessible. You need the PIN to unfreeze your credit.
Since our data is easily hackable, I do not store usernames, passwords or PINS on cloud-based services like google or i-cloud. Unfortunately this knocks out the convenience storing account information on cloud-based notes, contacts or address books. (Boo-hoo, but I don’t want to be as reckless as Equifax)
The whole process was annoying, but IMHO worth it! For clients who are not computer savvy, all this can be done via phone at each credit bureau.
I personally believe that older people are at a higher risk from this breach. Seniors are an easy target and savvy thieves will go after them first. For many people opening a new credit card, buying a home or new car is an occasional event. It’s worth a layer of extra security to protect us from fraud. Married couples will need to do this process for each spouse 🙂
PS: We have to remember to contact all four credit bureaus (again) when we want to open a credit card or do something that requires the release of our credit report.