Monitoring, Alerting, Locking, or Freezing: what to do after the Equifax breach
We’re writing once again with one more round of information on securing your identity online, this time we’d like to talk about “freezing” or “locking” your credit reports. This is different from filing a Fraud Alert, which is added to your record for 90 days and signals to lenders that they should obtain additional proof of your identity before extending credit. If you file a Fraud Alert with one of the three credit bureaus, they are required to share that with the other two. The process is free but, again, you have to renew it every 90 days (IdentityForce has a reminder function if you go this route).
If you instead freeze or lock your credit record, it cannot be viewed except by companies that have already extended credit to you and it remains frozen/locked until you unfreeze/unlock it. You must do this individually with each of the three credit bureaus. The credit bureaus are allowed to charge you each time you freeze or unfreeze your record, typically $10. We have just finished locking or freezing my record with each of the three bureaus and wanted to share the experience in case you choose to take this extra step.
If you signed up for the free TrustedID service from Equifax, you have the ability to lock your credit report from the online dashboard. If you do not wish to sign up for TrustedID, here is the link to put a security freeze on your credit record (we did not choose this option, but believe they will charge you $10 to do this): https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp
Transunion will allow you to freeze your record but also offers a free service, TrueIdentity, which gives you the ability to lock and unlock your record whenever you like. The process was easy to complete, though it did involve several steps to confirm my identity. Here is the link: https://www.transunion.com/product/trueidentity-free-identity-protection
Experian does not offer a free service, but will allow you to put a security freeze on your credit report online for $10. Again, this was easy but required several steps to confirm my identity. As part of the process, you will choose or be given a PIN that you will use to unfreeze your record any time you’re applying for new credit. Here is the link to establish a freeze at Experian: https://www.experian.com/ncaconline/freeze#registration
We continue to believe that monitoring services like IdentityForce are valuable, not least because they monitor your personal information across a wide array of databases beyond the credit bureaus (including the so-called “dark web”), but a credit lock or freeze, while requiring a little extra work, is considered the gold standard in identity protection.