Because identity theft is such a problem, the three major credit reporting agencies now allow anyone to freeze their credit, while in the past only identity theft victims could request a freeze. Credit freezes are very effective in protecting against ID theft, according to consumer reporter Clark Howard. Freezing your credit prevents identity theft because no future creditor can see your files, which is required for opening new credit accounts. When you want to open a legitimate credit account, you can “thaw” or unlock your credit and then freeze it again.
Contact the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Experian and Equifax allow you to contact them online or by certified mail, and TransUnion allows you to contact them by phone, online or by certified mail.
Expect to pay a fee. Fees range from $3 to $10 depending on which state you live in. Some states waive the fee if you can prove you are an identity theft victim, and some waive or lower the fees if you are over 65.
Plan to give the credit reporting agencies your personal information. In order to freeze your credit, you must be the account holder. You will need to provide your full name, your address, your date of birth, your Social Security number and a current copy of a utility bill or bank statement that shows your name and address and was mailed to your home.
Keep your PIN number. You will get a PIN or an identification number when you freeze your account. It is important that you keep this number in a safe place because you will use this number when you want to thaw your credit. Keep in mind that it could take up to three business days for your credit to unlock. Costs vary from free to $10 to thaw your credit.
Check each credit reporting agency to see if there are any alternatives to the credit freeze if you open new accounts on a regular basis. For a larger one-time fee, you may be able to buy a service that allows the freezing and thawing process to happen in 24 hours. Determine if this is more cost effective than paying each time to freeze and thaw multiple times under the standard credit freeze.