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Consumer advocacy group U.S. PIRG is recommending consumers change their credit freeze PINs on their Experian credit reports after reports yesterday revealed a security flaw with Experian’s online PIN retrieval page. After talking to seven Experian phone representatives, U.S. PIRG confirmed that the only way to change your PIN for your Experian credit freeze is to permanently remove your current Experian credit freeze and place a new freeze, which can be done online or over the phone.
“The security flaw appears to be fixed, but Experian still needs to notify consumers of the risk and tell them how to protect themselves,” said Mike Litt, U.S. PIRG’s consumer campaign director. “In the meantime, you should check your Experian credit report for any fraudulent accounts and change your Experian credit freeze PIN.”
Experian’s website allows consumers to retrieve their PIN, which is needed to temporarily remove a freeze when applying for credit, if they lost it. However, PINs could be retrieved by simply answering “none of the above” to all security questions, providing an opportunity for identity thieves to remove freezes and apply for new credit accounts.
The steps for changing your Experian credit freeze PIN include the following:
Permanently remove your credit freeze by filling out and submitting this form.
Add a new security freeze by filling out and submitting this form. You will have the option of creating your own PIN or having one generated for you.
The phone number provided by Experian for credit freezes does not appear to give consumers the option of removing freezes. Instead, call Experian at 1-800-493-1058. This number is actually for Experian’s credit report dispute phoneline, but it’s the number we have found to reach a live person who can help you remove your existing freeze and place a new one if you use the following prompts:
Experian requires you to enter your Social Security number, ZIP code, and numerical portion of your street address, on your telephone keypad at the start of your call.
After entering in your personal information, press option 2 for “general questions about your credit.”
Then press option 1 for “questions about your credit report.”
Then press option 1 again for “questions about your credit report.”
You will then hear a long message about how to get a copy of your credit report and dispute inaccuracies on it. (Again, this is not why you are calling, but it’s how we know to reach a person.) After this message, you will be connected to a live representative.
Ask the representative to help you change your credit freeze PIN. (Again, what they are actually doing is permanently removing your current freeze and placing a new freeze.) The representative will ask you for your Social Security number and address again, along with your birthdate, before you can proceed.
You’ll be asked for your current PIN. The representative will permanently remove your current freeze and then set up a new one. You can either have Experian generate a new PIN for you, or you can set your own PIN, up to 10 numbers in length.
U.S. PIRG notes that placing credit freezes at the big three credit bureaus and a fourth smaller one (NCTUE) is still the best way to protect yourself from new account identity theft. Tips for protecting yourself against other types of identity theft are also available here.
“This security flaw isn’t a problem with the credit freeze. The problem is with Experian’s carelessness with the best line of defense we have against identity theft. If you have a freeze with Experian, just get a new one. If you don’t have freezes yet, now is the time to get them,” said Litt.
U.S. PIRG is the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups. PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organizations that stand up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society. On the web at www.uspirg.org.
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