I updated this post in September 2017 to provide tips to combat the Equifax security breach that affected 143 million US consumers.
When Anthem Blue Cross (a large provider of health insurance) got hacked in February 2015, I scrambled to figure out the best way to protect my identity and credit score.
Here’s the guide I wrote based on what I learned and implemented for myself:
1. What is a security freeze?
A security freeze (also known as a credit freeze) helps prevent the opening of new lines of credits, like a credit card or personal loan, in your name by restricting access to your credit report.
2. How do I add a security freeze?
Each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) provides a dedicated page where you can instantly place a security freeze on your credit report.
There is a small fee to add a freeze to your credit report and you’ll need to pay the fee once to each of the three major credit bureaus. Fees vary based on where you live, but commonly range from free to $10.
The process takes about 10 minutes to complete. You’ll receive a PIN for each that you can use to lift the freeze later on. Store your pin in a safe place, like your 1Password vault or a safety deposit box.
Here are the links to add a security freeze at each respective credit bureau (make sure to do all three).
- Equifax - Freeze your Equifax Credit Report
- TransUnion - Freeze your TransUnion Credit Report
- Experian - Freeze your Experian Credit Report
Note: If you are asked what type of freeze to add, select “Permanant Freeze.” Permanent only means that it will remain in effect until you choose to remove the freeze, which you can do at any time.
Do not select “Fraud Alert,” as that option will only provide you with a mailed notice after a new credit inquiry has already been made on your report.
3. Do I need to do a freeze on all three credit reports? Or can I just do the one that got hacked?
You’ll need to place a security freeze on your credit report at all three of the major Credit Bureaus.
The reason behind this is that all three credit bureaus share information with each other. If you choose only to place a security freeze on one of your reports, and someone fraudulently opens a credit card against one of your other two (unprotected) credit reports, it will still get reported to the one credit bureau that you do have frozen.Read more