Freezing your credit is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to lessen the risks of identity theft. When you freeze your credit, no one can even look at your credit file, making it next-to-impossible for anyone else to open a new account in your name.
The downside is that you won't be able to open a new account either. So all three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — let you easily "unfreeze" your credit files, either temporarily or permanently. (You can set the dates and duration of a temporary freeze.)
Perhaps fittingly, Equifax gives you the most bang for your (free) buck of all three credit bureaus when you set up a credit freeze.
You'll have to create an Equifax account, but this comes with a "dashboard" on the Equifax website that gives you monthly credit scores and a summary of your Equifax credit report and also lets you set up a fraud alert. You can even start a dispute over inaccurate information in your credit file.
Equifax also offers a free service called "Lock & Report" that is basically the same as a credit freeze, except that there are mobile apps for iOS and Android that let you "unlock" your Equifax credit file with a swipe of a finger. To do this with a credit freeze, you have to log into your account on the Equifax website.
The difference is that Lock & Report isn't regulated by the federal government, and Equifax makes more money if it's easier to unlock your files. Equifax doesn't let you have a credit lock and a credit freeze at the same time.
How to set up a credit freeze with Equifax online
This is the easiest way to freeze your credit with Equifax. Go to the dedicated page on the Equifax website at https://www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services/credit-freeze/ and click "Get started with a freeze."
Then you'll have to fill out personal information, including your name, address, date of birth and Social Security number. Equifax will retrieve your information and prompt you to set up an Equifax account. Make sure the password is unique and strong.
Then you'll be able to freeze your credit. You won't need to set up a PIN to unfreeze it if you have an Equifax account — your username and password will be enough.
How to set up a credit freeze with Equifax by telephone
Call Equifax at (888) 298-0045 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Eastern time during the week, and between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekends.
You'll be asked for your name, address, date of birth and Social Security number to verify your identity. Once your freeze is set up, you'll be given a PIN that will unfreeze your credit.
How to set up a credit freeze with Equifax by mail
Print and fill out the form on this page. You'll need to mail it, along with copies of your Social Security card or pay stubs showing the number, plus copies of your driver's license, utility bills or other documents showing your address, to:
Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348-5788
We recommend sending the letter via certified mail. The same form can also be used to temporarily or permanently lift a credit freeze.