When to do a Credit Freeze
Every year, millions of Americans fall victim to identity theft. And in today’s digital world where data breaches are commonplace, it’s vital to know how to protect yourself from identity fraud. A credit freeze shields your credit report from others, and it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent fraudsters from opening credit accounts in your name.
What is a Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze blocks others—including new lenders, employers, and landlords—from accessing your credit report. Freezing your credit makes it much harder for fraudsters to open new lines of credit in your name. Think of a credit freeze as a lock on your credit history. It seals your credit information from others.
During a freeze, new lenders can’t view your credit report. When lenders can’t pull your report, they won’t issue you credit. This means no one, including you, can open new lines of credit in your name. So even if a fraudster has managed to steal your information, they won’t be able to open a new account in your name. A lender would deny the application because it couldn’t review your credit.
A credit freeze won’t impact your ability to build credit with your current accounts, nor will it affect your credit score. It also doesn’t keep your current lenders or debt collectors from accessing your credit report. Moreover, certain government agencies may still have access your credit report.
When to Freeze Your Credit
It could be wise to add a credit freeze if you suspect your identity was stolen, you’ve been a victim of online fraud, or your information was compromised in a data breach. Some people freeze their credit as a preventative measure, especially if they aren’t planning to apply for new credit anytime soon. The bottom line – you can freeze your credit any time and for any reason. Freezing your credit is free and a fairly simple process.
How to Freeze Your Credit?
To freeze your credit, you need to contact all three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – individually. You can contact each credit bureau online, by phone, or by mail. You can visit the website of each bureau for the most up-to-date information:
- Equifax: Visit the Equifax Credit Freeze page or call 800-685-1111
- Experian: Visit the Experian Security Freeze Center page or call 888-397-3742
- TransUnion: Visit the TransUnion Credit Freeze page or call 888-909-8872
While each bureau has its own process for freezing credit, know that you’ll need to answer questions to verify your identity. Likely, you will need to provide your Social Security number, date of birth, and address. You may also need to provide documentation, like a copy of your passport, driver’s license, or utility bill.
How to Lift the Freeze
A credit freeze remains in place until you lift it. If you want to apply for a new line of credit while your credit is frozen, you’ll need to lift the freeze so lenders can access your credit report. Similarly, if you’re applying for a job or renting an apartment, you may need to lift the freeze so others can check your credit.
You can temporarily or permanently remove a credit freeze. A temporary lift, sometimes called a “thaw”, lets lenders access your credit report within a specified date range, set by you. When the temporary lift expires, the freeze automatically resumes. A permanent lift leaves your credit report open unless you initiate another freeze.
Just like freezing your credit, you’ll need to contact each major credit bureau to lift the freeze. Unfreezing your credit is free and the process varies by bureau. You can unfreeze your credit online, by phone, or by mail. Here’s some basic information for each bureau:
- Equifax: You can remove a freeze online by visiting the Equifax Credit Freeze Management page, by calling 888-298-0045, or by submitting a security freeze request form through the mail.
- Experian: You can remove a freeze online visiting the Experian Credit Freeze Center or by calling 888-397-3742. You can also submit a freeze request by mail, which will require documents to verify your identity.
- TransUnion: You can remove a freeze online by visiting the TransUnion Credit Freeze Management page, by calling 888-909-8872, or by mail.
It’s worth noting that submitting a lift request through the mail can take longer. You may have to wait up to three business days for the lift to take effect, whereas requests made online or by phone are fulfilled within one hour.
A credit freeze is one of the best ways to prevent fraudsters from opening new accounts in your name. If you think your information was compromised or there’s been fraud on your account, adding a credit freeze can help ensure further misuse of your information. To learn more about how you can protect yourself from fraud, visit the Fraud Resource Center of our website.