You Get a Credit Freeze!

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Open your boxes. YOU get a credit freeze! YOU get a credit freeze! YOU get a credit freeze! (Apologies, Oprah)

Note: This post deals with info specific to the USA credit reporting system, but the general ideas here can also be used for other countries if they have similar reporting systems.

Yeah so I got another notice of a data breach involving my personal info, one of several in the last few years. So once again I had to go and verify my credit info is locked down well. Doing this can be very confusing because there are different levels protections you can add in multiple systems. And the companies running these systems certainly don’t make it easy to understand.

There are:

  • Credit locks
  • Credit freezes (Also called security freeze)
  • Fraud alerts
  • Credit monitoring services

Credit Locks

These are not governed by law, so the companies offering them can make them whatever they want ( Sometimes these locks come in different premium paid tiers, a way for these companies to make money. Locks are not really recommended because there are no guarentees what they actually do and vary across systems, causing confusion.

Fraud Alerts

Fraud alerts notify potential lenders that they should not grant credit without first contacting you. These only last for 1 year, and this request is not legally binding.

Credit Monitoring

There are services that can monitor your credit report and notify you of any changes. However this is really too late since something has already occurred. If you get an alert that a new account was already opened in your name, now you have to do the work to notify the lender of the fraud and try to fix it.

I have received offers for free credit monitoring services after notification of a verified breach. This is likely a part of the “punishment” companies agree to as a consequence of the breach in their system. However, for example, the last letter I received about a breach with an offer for montoring services arrived 2 months after the actual breach happened. So now my data has already been out there for 2 months, and now I have to take time to setup the monitoring to catch anything that happens in the FUTURE. I will accept these offers for free monitoring, it can be helpful but really a more proactive approach is needed!

Credit Freeze

A credit freeze is really your best proactive option. A freeze will block access to your credit report data. Without this information it is much less likely for any lender to grant credit for someone trying to impersonate you. There is a disadvantage in that if you yourself are trying to get credit you will not be able to unless you first remove the freeze. But that process is free and if you plan ahead won’t be a problem.

However, there is not just one place where you can place or withdraw a freeze. Most people know about the 3 main credit agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. And to place a freeze you have to contact each one individually. However did you know there are even more credit agencies? Yes these all need to be notified as well, but many people are not aware of them.

Here are two great articles about where to place credit feezes:

In summary you should place freezes at:

You can also place a security freeze at ChexSystems ( which is what many banks use to verify credit information.

I had placed a freeze on most of these systems years ago, but missed one so it is a good idea to recheck the status every year. Also everyone is allowed to get a free credit report from each agency once per year. You should start at the official website to request this: