As of Jan. 1, Pennsylvania residents will join consumers in more than a dozen other states, including New Jersey, who have a right to freeze their credit files whether or not they have already fallen victim to identity theft.
It's a great tool for blocking so-called "new-account theft," in which a criminal uses your personal information - perhaps as little as your name, Social Security number and date of birth - to create fake IDs, and with them starts establishing new accounts in your name. A security freeze blocks access to your credit file, and only you can unblock it, with a secret password or PIN code like those you use at a bank machine.
The credit-reporting agencies don't make initiating a freeze especially easy. Here are instructions I've found online from each of the three national credit bureaus:Equifax
To request that we place a security freeze on your Equifax credit file your request must be in writing, sent to us via certified mail, and include the following information:
3. Date of Birth
4. Social Security Number
5. Proof of current address such as a current utility bill
6. Payment of applicable fees to request a security freeze of your credit file [$10 in Pennsylvania, unless you send proof that you are 65 or older, or send a copy of a police report showing that you're a victim of identity theft].
We accept personal checks, American Express, Mastercard, VISA, and Discover Cards for payment of fees. If you are paying by credit card, please include the following information:
a. Name of the person as it appears on the credit card
b. Type of credit card (American Express, Mastercard, VISA, or Discover Card)
c. Complete account number
d. Expiration data (month and year)
e. For American Express - 4 digit Card Identification Number (on front of card above the account number)
f. For Mastercard, VISA, or Discover Card - 3 digit Card Identification Number (on back of card at the end of the account number.
Please do not send cash through the mail.
7. If you are an identity theft victim and are requesting a security freeze you must also include a copy of a police report, Identity Theft report, or other government law enforcement agency report, such as a DMV report. [Note: For a fee waiver, Pennsylvania residents must provide a police report.]
Please send your security freeze request information via certified mail to the address below.
Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, Georgia 30348
Once we receive your security freeze request information and place a security freeze on your Equifax credit file we will send you via US mail a confirmation letter that contains a 10 digit security freeze confirmation number. You will need to provide us your security freeze confirmation number to request temporary lifts of your security freeze or permanent removal of your security freeze. Please store this confirmation letter in a safe place to prevent delays when requesting a temporary lift or removal of your security freeze.
For more information from Equifax about security freezes, click here
and then scroll down.Experian
Requests for a security freeze should be submitted via certified or overnight mail to:
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
Freeze requests must include all of the following:
1) Full name, with middle initial and generation, such as JR, SR, II, III, etc.
2) Social Security number
3) Date of birth
4) Current address, and previous addresses for the past two years.
5) One copy of a government issued identification card, such as a driver’s license, state ID card, military ID card, etc.
6) One copy of a utility bill, bank or insurance statement, etc.
[Note: Experian says to "make sure that each copy is legible (enlarge if necessary), displays your name and current mailing address, and the date of issue (statement dates must be recent). We are unable to accept credit card statements, voided checks, lease agreements, magazine subscriptions or postal service forwarding orders as proof."]
We will send you a confirmation notice once the security freeze has been added, and you will be given a personal identification number that will be required in order to remove the freeze temporarily (in order to apply for credit or for any transaction that requires that another party access your personal credit report) or permanently.
For more information from Experian, including instructions on how to thaw a freeze, click here.TransUnion
Your security freeze request must include:
1) Your name
2) Your address
3) Your Social Security Number
4) A credit card number and expiration date to pay the applicable fee, if any, for the service.
5) If you're requesting a waiver under Pennsylvania law, be sure to provide proof that you are 65 or older or a police report showing that you're a victim of identity theft.
[Note: Pennsylvania law requires you to send your security-freeze request by certified mail, and allows you an exemption from the $10 freeze fee if you're 65 or older (include proof of age) or a victim of identity theft (include a copy of a police report).]
Mail your request to:
Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
If you are a victim of identity theft in an eligible state and can provide TransUnion with a copy of a valid identity theft report, a department of motor vehicles investigation report, or similar proof that you have been a victim of ID theft, you will not be charged a fee for the Security Freeze services. If you are not a victim of identity theft, please refer to the Security Freeze Table for fees (if any). Acceptable forms of payment are American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa.
For more information from TransUnion on security freezes, click here.
New Jersey has a year's worth of experience with security freezes. For information from New Jersey's Division of Consumer Affairs, click here.
For security-freeze instructions from NJPIRG, click here
For sample letters you can modify to request a freeze from each of the three main credit bureaus, and an excellent how-to guide prepared by Consumers Union, click here