The contact numbers are listed below, and it takes less than 10 minutes per person, per agency. Freezes will prevent most types of credit-based identity theft, although you will need to lift the freeze when applying for loans, mortgages, or credit cards.
Note that if you do have your identity stolen, it is a mess to clean up, taking lots of time, bureaucracy, inconvenience, and costs, including potential legal problems or extra airport scrutiny. Most victims say it takes YEARS to clear up.
The process of freezing your credit takes about 20-30 minutes for one person if you use the automated online or phone systems offered by the three main credit reporting agencies (see below). DO NOT BE FOOLED by other services they offer, such as "credit monitoring" - Trans Union is particularly bad, exploiting the Equifax breach to sign people up for "True Identity" which is a paid premium service that offers limited protections.
Have your credit card number and social security number ready to use the following systems (you can also do it by mail, but it's slower and requires additional paperwork including a scan of utility bills and drivers' licenses). All services will send you a PIN to use later if you want to lift the freeze.
- Equifax offers freezes for free through November 21 via https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp while Trans Union and Experian charge a fee (varies by state, have your CC ready).
- Trans Union: use their website http://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/place-credit-freeze or the automated phone system (888 909-8872). I recommend using the phone system as the website will steer you to "True Identity" which is an inferior paid service.
- Experian is http://www.experian.com/news/security-freeze.html or 1 888 397 3742.
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