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It’s Free To Freeze Your Credit: Here’s What You’ll Need to Do

Jean Chatzky  |  May 13, 2024

Credit freezes are free and typically, take less than an hour to complete. Here's everything you need to get going.

In today’s world, where we live so much of our lives online, data breaches have become far too common. According to a recent study, in 2023 there were 2,365 cyberattacks in the U.S., with over 343 million victims. 2023’s numbers represent a 72% increase in data breaches since 2021. On average, each data breach comes at the whopping cost of $4.45 million.  If you’ve been a victim of a data breach, you may want to consider a credit freeze.

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While businesses often offer customers credit monitoring after criminals steal data, the fallout has the potential to last for years. Cally Ingebritson, a financial coach in San Diego, has helped clients handle the aftermath of identity theft. She assisted one client with a credit freeze, to make sure no new accounts could be opened in the person’s name.   

“Credit freezes can be extremely helpful as somebody is recovering from an identity theft to prevent further damage to their credit history,” says Ingebritson. “Unfortunately recovering from identity theft can take a long time to unravel so anything that can be done to reduce the harm should be a top priority.”

Freezing your credit can also be used as a preventative measure, she says: “I helped my dad and grandmother freeze their credit reports as they developed Alzheimer’s and dementia respectively. People with cognitive impairments and memory loss are incredibly vulnerable to financial scams, so I recommend that my clients with loved ones in these situations freeze their credit reports.”

Courtney Alev, Credit Karma’s Consumer Financial Advocate, says freezing your credit can also reduce your chances of becoming an identity theft victim. Anytime you’re worried about your identity being exposed, whether your wallet was stolen, or there was a recent data breach, she says, you may want to consider a credit freeze. 

And it’s never been easier.

A federal law passed after a breach at credit reporting bureau Equifax makes it free to freeze – and unfreeze – your credit in the U.S. And, as someone who has frozen (and made my family do the same) and unfrozen to apply for a credit card later, let me take a moment to address the hassle factor: It was no big deal. Doing it the first time, which requires getting in touch (online is easiest) with all three bureaus individually, took about 30 minutes total. Unfreezing took about 10.

Despite the ease, surveys estimate only 10 to 20% of consumers have frozen their credit. If you’re among those who have yet to do so, let’s get on with it shall we?

What you need to do to freeze your credit:


  • Contact all three bureaus.  Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.  These links will take you exactly where you need to go, no Googling required.  If you’d rather let your fingers do the walking the old-fashioned way, you can reach Equifax at (866) 478-0027, TransUnion at (800) 916-8800 and Experian at (888) 397-3742.  


  • Keep your PINs at hand. When you freeze your credit you’ll get PINs that you need to have to unfreeze later. Write them down, put them in a safe place or do whatever you have to do to make sure you can get at them if and when you need them. All the bureaus have various procedures to follow to get them.


  • Do it for you – and your kids. The law allows parents to freeze credit for children under age 16. It’s a good idea. In recent years, millions of children have been victims of identity theft, many of them a form called “synthetic” identity theft where a child’s pilfered Social Security number is combined with other data from a real adult to apply for credit. The reason it’s so important for kids is that an adult is likely —sooner or later — to apply for credit and discover that there’s a problem in their file. When a child’s Social Security number is compromised, the fraud can go undetected for years.  


  • Pull your child’s credit and your own. Finally, let this be a reminder that you should be checking your credit regularly as well. This, too, you can do for free at Each person is eligible to pull one credit report from each of the bureaus each year.  If you pull one every four months on a rotating basis, you’ll have eyes on your credit fairly often throughout the year. As for your child, the mere existence of a credit report for a child who has never applied for credit is a sign that something is amiss. Knowing about the problem is the first step in clearing it up.


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