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    Instructions: Add a Credit Freeze to Your File

    As we discussed in yesterday's vlog (12 September 2017), we advise you to inform your accountholders and members about the merits of adding a credit freeze. And this goes for anyone, not just those impacted directly by this breach.

    A freeze is the only and best way to truly protect your identity and money because it prevents criminals from opening new lines of credit in your name. So even if your information was exposed in the Equifax breach, if you freeze your credit file, then you won’t be at risk if fraudsters try to use your information in the future. 

    So how does a credit freeze work, exactly? Well, a freeze seals your credit reports and issues a PIN to you - if you need to apply for credit and services in the future, you’ll have to use this PIN to temporarily “thaw” your credit. This PIN is the key to your protection. 

    But, you do need to know the drawbacks. Even though freezing your credit files will prevent hackers from using your personal info, it can be a real hassle. The most obvious reason a credit freeze can be annoying is that your credit report will be locked to everyone - including yourself. You will not be able to open a new credit account. So, if you plan on buying a house, or open a line of credit, in the near future, you may want to think twice. Another negative aspect of credit freezes is that they usually cost money. Fee levels vary by state and your unique consumer criteria. The National Conference of State Legislation has compiled a list of Consumer Report State Freeze Laws

    And, to tap into the main point of today's blog, a credit freeze is time-consuming and duplicative, because you must contact each of the three credit data reporting companies - Equifax, Experien, and TransUnion - to place a credit freeze on your file. It’s pretty frustrating that these three can coordinate to sale credit scores and turn a profit, but cannot cooperate when its in the interests of almost half of the American public. 

    To increase irritation, consumers are required to send a "request" to add a freeze to your file via post to each company (no.you.did.NOT.misread that. You have to send your personal information through snail mail to these companies in the interest of "protecting" yourself. Really, shouldn't we be as interested in protecting ourselves from these identifiable, greedy corporate hacks as from cyber criminals? ). The following information must be included with your request:

    • Full name (and former name if applicable)
    • Current Address and former address if it changed in the last 5 years
    • Social Security number
    • Date of birth
    • Photocopy of a driver’s license, state ID card or other government-issued identification
    • Proof of current residence, such as a copy of a phone or utility bill
    • Identity Theft Victim? If you are a victim of identity theft, include a copy of either the police report; investigative report, or complaint to a law enforcement agency concerning identity theft;
    • NON-Victim of Identity Theft? Include PAYMENT by check, money order or credit card (Visa, Master Card, American Express, or Discover cards only.) Do not send cash in the mail.

    Equifax has announced that it will waive all fees for consumers who want to freeze their credit files until the 21st of November. If you've already paid the fee, Equifax will refund you (no word on how long that will take). As of now, TransUnion and Experian still have fees in place, which means they are still profiting off our misfortune.

    In sum, a credit freeze is a very serious step to take, but it is the best way for you and your customers to protect your money and your identities.

    You can mail your requests to the addresses below. 

    Experian Security Freeze
    P.O. Box 9554

    Allen, TX  75013
    1-888-397-3742 
    https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html 

    Equifax Security Freeze
    P.O. Box 105788          

    Atlanta, GA  30348   
    1-800-685-1111
    https://www.freeze.equifax.com    

    TransUnion LLC
    P.O. Box 2000
    Chester, PA 19022-2000
    1-888-909-8872 
    www.transunion.com/personal-credit/credit-disputes/credit-freezes.page