The third bureau, Experian, still requires a PIN to lift a freeze.
“We’ve kept this in place as it provides a level of security that the consumer has control over,” a spokesman, Greg Young, said in an email.
To lift a freeze, consumers enter personal details on Experian’s website as well as their PIN. If consumers lose their PIN, Mr. Young said, they can complete an online process to get a new one.
Here are some questions and answers about security freezes:
How can I make sure my credit freeze password is secure?
Passwords tend to be more secure than PINs, said Lorrie Cranor, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. PINs are typically just a series of digits, while passwords include letters and symbols, enabling more combinations and making them harder to guess.
The addition of an extra step, like a one-time code texted to your phone, as Equifax is doing, provides extra security, Dr. Cranor said, adding, “That’s a good thing.”
But, she cautioned, no system is perfect. Many people reuse the same passwords or create passwords containing letters and numbers that are relatively easy to guess — like birthdays or phone numbers. Dr. Cranor recommends using password-generating software to create truly random combinations, and then using a password manager to keep track of them. The Wirecutter, a New York Times affiliate, offers recommendations.
It’s also fine to write down your passwords, she said, as long as you keep them in a secure location, like a locked file cabinet.
Does having a credit freeze mean I can’t use my current credit cards?
No. The Federal Trade Commission says some consumers mistakenly think a freeze will prevent them from using their credit cards. A freeze prevents new accounts from being opened without your permission, but has no effect on cards already in your wallet.