HOPKINS, Minn. -- As the lawsuits pile up against Equifax for exposing nearly half the country's social security numbers, you’re likely not the only one wondering, "Who has my social security number?"
For some, a simple free check of your credit history at www.annualcreditreport.com is enough, but for others, it’s not.
Here is one way to ensure no one accesses your credit information except you.
It’s called a credit freeze.
What is a credit freeze?
Also known as a security freeze, a credit freeze puts a hold on the release of your credit report, which makes opening a new credit account extremely difficult for anyone but you.
While the information is frozen to potential bad guys or gals, a freeze also keeps out new lenders, credit card companies, employers, tenant screenings, etc.
If at any time you want to buy a car, get a credit card, find an apartment, or switch jobs, you can unfreeze your credit to allow access again.
If you do freeze your credit, existing creditors or debt collectors will still have access to your report, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
How to freeze credit reports?
In order to freeze your credit, you must contact all three credit bureaus. You can do that online or by phone.
Each bureau asks for you name, DOB, address, former address and social security number.
Equifax is currently offering free credit freezes until November 21, 2017 (due to the breach); however, in Minnesota, Experian and TransUnion charge $5 to freeze and unfreeze credit.
How to unfreeze credit reports?
After you successfully freeze your credit history in all three credit bureaus, each bureau will give you a pin number. That number will allow you unfreeze your credit should you want or need to. Again, allow the bureaus three days to unfreeze credit.
Don’t confuse TransUnion "Credit Lock" with "credit freeze"
Transunion offers a credit monitoring product called "Credit Lock" that allows a consumer to control who has access to your credit report with one click online or in an app. It’s a nimble way to lock and unlock your credit, but the service costs $19.95 per month, plus tax.
To truly “freeze” your credit on TransUnion—at least online—you must click on "Credit Report Assistance" on the homepage menu, then click "credit freeze." You then have to scroll through paragraphs of information before you get to a link (www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/place-credit-freeze).
Click on that link and scroll down to a box describing the difference between "lock" and "freeze" and click on the link “click to initiate freeze process.”
Does a credit freeze affect your credit score?
Does a credit freeze affect your ability to use credit cards or current lines of credit?