SmartMoney Blogs

Ask SmartMoney
Your personal finance questions, answered.

What Happened to My Credit Freeze?

Question: In 2009, I found out that I was a victim of identity theft where two people, one in Florida and another in Texas, used my identity to buy goods and services. I sent the police report and a written letter to the three credit bureaus requesting a credit freeze. Experian did freeze my account, but Equifax and TransUnion did not. I called them but they just wanted to sell me their products to monitor my accounts. Please advise.

– Maria Gomes, Arlington, Va.

Answer: A credit freeze prevents potential creditors from pulling your report, and it’s a smart move for victims of identity theft – if a lender can’t check your credit report, it won’t open a credit card or line of credit for someone pretending to be you. (If the real you needs a new loan, you’ll have a code that will allow you to temporarily unlock the report.) But as you found, asking for a freeze doesn’t always mean you’ll get one, says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at credit-monitoring site

If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, most states will let you freeze your credit for free – but everyone else has to pay a fee of up to $20, depending on the state, to place a freeze, temporarily lift it, or remove it. To prove you’re eligible for a free freeze, you must provide proof of the crime, in the form of a police report. If you don’t have it, the credit bureaus will try to offer you the same protection, for a price.

In Virginia, where you live, freezes have been free since July 2008 for victims who provide a police report. You said you sent one to the bureaus, so we checked with Equifax and TransUnion on your behalf to figure out what went wrong. Chalk it up to missing mail. “We just never got a copy of the police report,” says a TransUnion spokesman. That explains why your freeze didn’t go through, and why you got the up-sell. Both bureaus quickly implemented a freeze as you requested.

But there’s another lesson to be taken from the snafu. As with other important transactions, keep copies of any required documents so that you can resend them as needed, says Leonard Bennett, a lawyer in Newport News, Va., who specializes in consumer protection issues.

For more help, read advocacy group Consumer Action’s how-to guide on obtaining a credit freeze.

Related Links:


We welcome thoughtful comments from readers. Please comply with our guidelines. Our blogs do not require the use of your real name.

Comments (2 of 2)

View all Comments »
    • There’s a reason it’s cllead Capitalism; it’s because Capital is what fuels it.The Government Monopoly is sucking $2 Trillion a year, at the Federal, State, and Local levels, from the Pool of job creating Capital. Had that money been left in the economy, it would have created 5 million $40k a year jobs, 5 MILLION JOBS!The Keynesian belief that money Supply isn’t going to be used productively unless the Government borrows and spends it is ridiculous, as Supply and Demand clearly states that price will adjust to balance the Demand. This means that interest rates would drop until all of the Capital is put to work.

    • Why try to get a Security Freeze for free when it’s so important to you? Just pony up the extra ten bucks and register online or by mail if requested. If you do it online, you will get a pin number directly, but if you are required to send further information, be smart enough to send it Priority Mail with signature as proof of delivery. That’s what I did and it was money well spent.

      I wonder why people go through such gyrations to save ten or twenty bucks when thousands upon thousands of dollars in headaches and real charges are on the line if someone manages to steal your identity.

      According to

      “We learned that the average amount of time it took before the victim became aware someone was using their identity to obtain credit was 14 months. And the average time it took to clear up the credit records was 2 years.”

      So, how much is your time and heartache worth? Twenty or thirty bucks?

About Ask SmartMoney

  • Ask SmartMoney has a single, simple mission: Answer your questions. Answers are written by the staff of and SmartMoney magazine, with the help of outside experts. Topics cover investing, spending, retirement planning, saving for college, insurance, taxes and more. Submit your question in the form below, or email