Freezing your credit with Equifax is the best road to take if you want to stop criminals from using your credit line and protect yourself against identity theft. You don’t have to pay anything to freeze your credit, which is very convenient!
Below, we’ll teach you how to place a security freeze on your credit with Equifax, and unfreeze it when it’s safe to use your credit again.
How a Credit Freeze Works
When you freeze your credit with Equifax, you’re basically telling them that you don’t want someone to be able to access your credit file. There are exceptions to who can and cannot see the credit file when a freeze is in place.
A credit freeze will remain in effect for as long as you want it; it’s up to you to decide when to remove it. Freezing your credit is now absolutely free, due to a rule reform in 2018. Previously, there was a fee to freeze and unfreeze your credit.
Credit freezes don’t have a detrimental effect on your credit score and won’t prevent you from obtaining your free annual credit reports. But if you plan to apply for loans or credit cards, you will need to release the credit freeze to give creditors access to your file. However, you don’t have to freeze your credit for stuff like applying for a job or renting an apartment.
How to Freeze Your Credit
The easiest way to freeze your credit report is on the Equifax website. You’ll first have to create a myEquifax account to activate the freeze. Creating an account requires that you have your name, address, Social Security number, date of birth, and identity verification information.
2. By Phone
If you don’t want to create an online Equifax account, the next best option is to ask for a freeze by phone. The number to call is 888-298-0045. A one-time PIN will be sent to you via text message when you request a freeze by phone.
3. By Mail
The last way to freeze your credit is to download and mail it in the required form. Submit finished documents to Equifax Information Services LLC P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348-5788. Send via certified mail so that you have evidence that your application has been mailed and you can verify to see when they are received.
Under federal law, it can take no longer than one business day for the freeze to take place whether you request it online or by phone, and no more than three business days when you request it by mail.
When you freeze your credit, you may need to have a document to verify your ID. It may be any of the following:
- Valid driver’s license
- Social Security card
- Pay stub
- W2 form
- 1099 form
- Court documents for legal name change
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce decree
- State ID
- Military ID
You’ll also need to provide one item to validate your address:
- Valid driver’s license
- Utility bill with the correct address (gas, water, cable, residential phone bill)
- Cell phone bill
- W2 form
- 1099 form
- Rental lease agreement/house deed
- Mortgage statement
- Bank statement
- State ID
Pros and Cons of Freezing Your Credit Report
Freezing your credit records can have benefits and drawbacks that are helpful to bear in mind.
- Secure your credit report to help deter identity theft and fraud
- There is no longer a fee to freeze or unfreeze your credit
- You can freeze or unfreeze credit online conveniently and quickly.
- A credit freeze is not going to hurt your credit score
- A credit freeze won’t fully block access to your credit file
- You’re going to need to unfreeze your credit so you can apply for loans
A credit freeze could be a smart idea if you’re worried about the risk of identity fraud and don’t want to apply for extra credit anytime soon. It provides an additional layer of protection to your credit reports, which can be comforting as fraud and identity theft continues to grow. And not having to pay extra to make a credit freeze or unfreeze is a nice perk.
Freezing your credit report won’t freeze your credit score. Your score can also go up or down when a credit freeze is in effect, depending on the details submitted to Equifax.
How to Unfreeze Your Credit
You may decide at some point that you no longer need to freeze your credit. Or you may like to temporarily lift the credit freeze so that you can qualify for a mortgage, credit card, or another loan.
If you wish to unfreeze one or all three of your credit reports, you will need to contact Equifax using the information listed above.
Once you have asked the credit bureau to remove your credit freeze, it must do so under a specific timeframe. In the case of requests made by phone or online, the freeze must be lifted within one hour. If the appeal is submitted by mail, the freeze must be lifted no less than three business days after it has been received.
Credit Freeze or Fraud Alert?
An alternative to freezing your credit is to put a fraud alert on your credit profile. A fraud alert will shield your credit history from unwanted access for a maximum of one year. It can also be covered by an extended fraud alert for seven years.
Extended fraud alerts could be a safer choice if you have already been a victim of identity theft. To set up an extended fraud alert, you first need to create an identity theft report and then contact Equifax to trigger the fraud alert. Equifax will then have to report to the other two bureaus, Experian and TransUnion.
A fraud alert or extended fraud alert would not lock down your credit records entirely the way a freeze does. They do, however, require creditors and lenders to take the extra step of checking your identity before you approve new lines of credit in your name. This might be a better option if you don’t want the trouble of freezing and unfreezing your credit file.