Should I freeze my credit report as a result of the Equifax data breach?

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Your 9/10 response to the Equifax data breach did not address freezing your credit reports. Do you recommend this? I have no outstanding debt except one USAA and one other credit card that I pay off each month.

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Answers (1)

Answers (1)



Thank you for the follow-up question. To address your concerns about placing a credit freeze, let's first review the different options. There are potentially three options available to help you protect your credit:


  1. Fraud Alert. You can place a fraud alert request with one of the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies. Fraud alerts are free and place a "red flag" on your credit report. Third parties can still access your credit information; however, they will be encouraged to take additional steps to verify your identity before extending credit. You will only need to place the fraud alert with one of the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies and the other two will be notified automatically. The fraud alert is typically good for 90 days, however, if you are military you can place an active duty alert that is good for one year. An extended fraud victim alert is good for 7 years for those that are victims of identity theft, but requires a valid identity theft report that you have filed with a Federal, State or local law enforcement agency.
  2. Security Freeze. A security freeze prevents new creditors from accessing your credit report unless you lift the freeze. Keep in mind that there may be a fee charged for placing or removing the freeze. The fee can vary based on the state you live in. Please note, you would need to submit a separate credit freeze request with each consumer agency and pay any applicable fees. According to the Equifax website, the fee will be waived if you're a victim of identity theft and submit a valid investigative or incident report or complaint with a law enforcement agency or the Department of Motor Vehicles.
  3. Credit File Lock. Equifax is providing individuals with the ability to lock their Equifax credit file for free if enrolled in the free credit monitoring service they are offering. A credit file lock is similar to a credit freeze, but will only lock the report with the credit agency in which you submit the request. TransUnion is also offering free credit monitoring and the ability to lock your TransUnion report. Experian offers the ability to lock your credit report with their paid monitoring service. 

If you decide to place a credit freeze or lock your credit reports, keep in mind that the lock or freeze will need to be lifted, at least temporarily, before applying for new credit. Equifax states that it can take 24 - 48 hours to unlock a report. At a minimum, I would consider any free services, which could include Equifax's three-bureau credit monitoring, placing a 90-day fraud alert, and placing a credit lock with Equifax and TransUnion.  


To learn more about Fraud Alerts, Credit Freezes, and Credit File Locks, you can visit the Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion websites.