Place a Freeze on Your Credit Reports for Free

The recent news about the Equifax data breach may have you concerned about possible identity theft.  One of the best ways to protect yourself is to freeze your credit reports.  This typically involves a fee, but you can do it for free with 2 of the 3 credit bureaus using these links!

Update - 09.21.2018Good news! A new federal law allows you to freeze your credit report for free at all three bureaus.

First: what’s the difference between a “freeze” and a “lock”?

Both will protect your credit report from new account openings, but the method of verification is different.

  • Security freezes (also known as credit freezes) allow you to place, lift, or remove a freeze using a randomized PIN for identity verification (don’t lose this PIN!). Placing, lifting, or removing a security freeze can be done online, by phone, or by mail. Freezing and unfreezing your credit report usually requires a fee (varies by state).
  • Credit report locks allow you to lock and unlock your credit file using identity verification techniques such as usernames and passwords. There is typically no fee to lock or unlock your credit report.

TL:DR – Freezes require you to remember a PIN, locks require you to remember a username and password.  Not sure which to pick?  Go with the freeze and make sure not to lose the PIN!

Equifax

Remember: choose 1 option (you do not need to both).

  • Freeze: You can place a freeze at Equifax’s website.
  • Lock: Alternatively, you can sign-up for Equifax’s new Lock & Alert service that allows you to easily lock and unlock your credit report whenever you want.

TransUnion

Remember: choose 1 option (you do not need to both).

Experian

Remember: choose 1 option (you do not need to both).

  • Freeze: You can place a freeze at Experian for free at Experian’s Freeze Center.
  • Lock: I’m not aware of a lock service that is free through Experian (although, they do have paid services).

Some things to keep in mind

  • If you want to apply for credit (new credit card, refinance your home, etc), you must “unfreeze” your credit report. Ask the lender which bureau they use (Equifax, TransUnion or Experian) and then only unfreeze that one bureau.
  • If you already use a credit score monitoring service (like Credit Karma), freezing your credit report will still allow it to update.  However, you may have difficulties registering for a new credit score service while your reports are frozen.
  • Freezing your credit report still allows your banks to report your payment history, so you will still maintain a credit history and credit score.

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