In the wake of Equifax’s announced $700 million settlement with the U.S. government over a 2017 customer data breach, you may be considering signing up for the free credit monitoring and ID theft recovery services the credit bureau is offering to protect your identity.
While these can help you only after a criminal uses your personal data unlawfully, a credit freeze remains the best defense available.The move prevents new lenders from pulling your credit report, making it nearly impossible to open new credit in your name.
But there are times you will need to unfreeze your credit to qualify for a loan or credit card. No matter how you froze your reports – by mail, online or by phone, there are simple steps you can take to remove it by contacting Equifax, Experian and TransUnion directly.
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The credit bureaus will give you the option of unfreezing your account permanently or thawing it temporarily. A temporary unfreeze makes your credit report available to creditors for a set time, while a permanent thawing opens it until you decide to freeze it again.
Some even allow you to grant one-time access to a specific lender while your account remains frozen for everyone else. Perhaps most convenient, last year, a federal law that took effect allows people to freeze and unfreeze their credit at the three major credit bureaus without being charged.
Credit cards (Photo: iStockphoto)
How to unfreeze an Equifax report
You can remove a security freeze on your Equifax credit report online by creating a “myEquifax” account.
You can check the status of your security freeze through your myEquifax account as well. You can also use the consumer credit reporting agency’s automated system to unlock your credit report by calling (800) 349-9960.
Equifax gives consumers a third option for lifting credit freezes by mail.
“If you are temporarily lifting or permanently removing a security freeze, you will need the 10-digit PIN you received when the freeze was initially placed,” the credit agency says on its website.
Investors sold shares as the company forecast higher loan losses for 2017. (Photo: Getty Images)
Just download this form, and once the agency receives your request and verifies your identity, you’ll get a confirmation.
Contact info: Equifax; Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348.
How to unfreeze a TransUnion report
You can lift a credit freeze with TransUnion one of the following ways:
For digital unfreezing, you may be prompted to sign up for a new TransUnion account. If you’re a returning user, simply log in with your username and password. You can also perform the move by downloading the myTransUnion app, available in the Apple or Google Play App Store.
The app gives you the ability to “Temporarily Lift Freeze” yourself. You just enter the dates you want the lift to happen, so the report can be accessible to lenders.
Over the phone, a customer service representative can help you with the process at 888-909-8821. Or, you can mail your removal requests to the agency directly.
Contact info: TransUnion; TransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016.
How to unfreeze an Experian report
Experian has a “Freeze Center” dedicated to helping you remove or lift a security freeze.
The credit bureau will grant you an unfreeze online after you fill out the form on its website.
You can specify how long you want the freeze to be lifted, and even allow a specific lender to access your frozen report. If you want to completely unfreeze your file, you can request removal by phone (888-397-3742) or by mail.
Contact info: Experian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013.
Follow Dalvin Brown on Twitter: @Dalvin_Brown.
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