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Equifax data breach: I tried to freeze my credit. There were problems.

We were told this is how to protect ourselves from identity thieves. Too bad we can't

If you're concerned your personal information might have been exposed by the Equifax breach, you can take steps to freeze your credit. USA TODAY

A credit freeze prevents creditors from accessing your credit report.(Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It's a move we were told could help protect us after the Equifax data breach — except many of us are having trouble making it.

The credit-reporting company said last week hackers stole personal data from an estimated 143 million Americans, and experts advised consumers to place a security "freeze" on their credit reports to protect them from cyber thieves. But users on Twitter complained they ran into problems initiating freezes with the national credit reporting companies when they tried to do so by phone and online. I encountered the same.

Step by step: How to freeze your credit

Equifax breach: Who's to blame

What happens when all of America tries to freeze their credit

It's not pretty. Equifax and Experian did not respond to requests for comment, but TransUnion said the number of consumers asking for freezes is dominating their resources.

The news from credit reporting company Equifax that 143 million Americans had their information exposed is very serious. Experts say once your personal data is out there, it's basically out there forever. (Sept. 8) AP

"We have taken several steps to increase capacity and communication to support concerned consumers, such as adding agents, keeping our call center open through the weekend and authorizing overtime," TransUnion spokesman David Blumberg said. 

And then there was me

Bottom line: I was able to successfully freeze my credit at three of the four credit reporting agencies. 

Equifax: No dice. I called 1-800-349-9960, went through the process of providing my personal information, but in the end received a message that said my freeze could not be completed. When I tried to initiate the freeze online, I was told "System Currently Unavailable - Error 500."

Not good. (Photo: A screengrab after I attempted to freeze my credit online with Equifax.)

Late Thursday night, Equifax released a statement acknowledging the high volume of security freeze requests and said that they were "offline for approximately an hour," Washington Post reporter Brian Fung said on Twitter.

Experian: Smooth sailing. I called 1‑888‑397‑3742, provided my personal information, and was told that I had initiated a freeze. The company is mailing me a pin (that's what I'll use when I need to lift my freeze).

TransUnion: I was able to freeze my credit, but not by phone, which was my preference. Avivah Litan, a security analyst at financial research firm Gartner, told me picking up the phone is far less risky than freezing your credit online. I called TransUnion at 1-888-909-8872, provided my personal information, created a pin, and was told my freeze couldn't be completed. The automated agent said I was being transferred, but I was disconnected. I was, however, able to initiate the freeze on its website.

Innovis: Quick and easy. I called 1-800-540-2505, provided personal info, and the company initiated my freeze. My pin is being mailed. 

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Equifax stock plunged despite the company's CEO annoucing changes after a security breach that may have exposed the data of up to 143 million people. Fred Katayama reports.Video provided by Reuters Newslook

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If you're concerned your personal information might have been exposed by the Equifax breach, you can take steps to freeze your credit. USA TODAY

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The news from credit reporting company Equifax that 143 million Americans had their information exposed is very serious. Experts say once your personal data is out there, it's basically out there forever. (Sept. 8) AP

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Nearly half of all Americans are affected by a cyber security breach at Equifax, one of the nation's three major credit-reporting agencies. Here's how to avoid being a victim. USA TODAY

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An arbitration clause in Equifax's terms of service could keep the victims of its data breach from joining a class-action lawsuit against the company.Video provided by Newsy Newslook

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The bill would soften penalties credit bureaus face when hit with class action suits.Video provided by Newsy Newslook

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  • How the Equifax breach went from bad to worse

  • Equifax breach: How to protect your identity now

  • Equifax fine print could keep data breach victims from suing

  • Public outrage over Equifax could hurt this GOP bill

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