Placing a freeze on your credit data is one of the most effective ways to prevent identity thieves from using your info to steal. I recently went through this process and am here to guide you. Expect it to take 10 minutes of computer time per each adult in your household. Here’s how to do it. (You can also do this over the phone, but it’ll take longer.)
Gather Social Security numbers, birth dates and past addresses for each adult. Be familiar with recent borrowing. (You may be asked, for instance, about your mortgage balance.)
Grab a physical file folder and label the folder “Credit Bureau Security Freeze.” You will need to store important information in this folder in case you ever want to unfreeze your credit.
On your own computer at home, go to one of the three main credit bureaus’ websites (below). If you’re asked to create an account, write down your username and password.
To verify your identity, the site will ask for your past and present addresses (and maybe other personal info). Then you can request your freeze. As of Sept. 21, all credit freezes will be free thanks to a new federal law (previously, some states permitted fees to be charged for freezes)
You’ll receive or create a personal ID number. Add it to your folder, along with the account-holder name, username and password. You’ll need all this to unfreeze your account.
Repeat for the next adult in your household. Then proceed the same way with the next two credit bureaus. When done, put your folder in a secure place. (Mine is in a safe.)
Equifax: www.freeze.equifax.com; 800-685-1111 (in New York state: 800-349-9960)
Experian: experian.com/freeze/center.html; 888-397-3742
TransUnion: transunion.com/securityfreeze; 888-909-8872
This article was written by Doug Shadel for AARP.