Last updated: December 07, 2020
If you have been a victim of identity theft, a credit freeze (also called a “security freeze”) can help you protect your credit from fraud and abuse by preventing a credit bureau from providing your report to new creditors.
What is a Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze (also called a “security freeze”) blocks access to your credit report by placing a notice on your credit report that stops the credit reporting agency from releasing your credit report without your prior consent to lift the freeze.
When someone applies for credit using your information the lender will usually request a credit report from a credit bureau before issuing the loan or credit card. But when your credit is frozen the lender will not unable to obtain your report in order to approve the credit application.
Once you place a freeze on your credit report, the notice will remain on your report until you request the credit bureaus remove the notice temporarily or permanently.
Placing a freeze on your credit report is free to do at the three nationwide credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion), as required under a new federal law in 2018. The federal law requiring free security freezes does not apply to other credit reporting companies, who may still charge you a fee to place freezes on those reports.
How to Put a Freeze on Your Credit Report
To place a security freeze on your credit you have to contact each credit bureau to individually to request they place a freeze on your credit report.
To place the freeze, the credit bureau will ask for information to confirm your identity, such as your Social Security Number, date of birth, and other personally identifying information.
To prevent someone from applying for credit in your name, you will want to contact the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and Transunion at:
When you request a credit freeze online or by phone, the bureau must place the freeze on your credit report within one business day. If your credit freeze request is made by mail, the security freeze must be placed no later than 3 business days after receiving the request.
The credit bureau must send you a written confirmation of the security freeze no later than 5 business days after the security freeze is placed. They must also give you instructions explaining how you can remove the security freeze.
The bureau will provide you with a unique PIN or password which you will need later to lift the freeze from your credit report. You will also get instructions on how to lift the freeze using your PIN or password.
Other Credit Bureaus:
In addition to the big three credit bureaus, there are also other lesser-known credit bureaus that collect information about and provide consumer reports. You can request a credit freeze at two other bureaus, Innovis and the National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange.
You can request a freeze at Innovis at 800-540-2505, https://www.innovis.com/personal/securityFreeze, and the National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange at 866-343-2821, https://www.nctue.com/consumers
Who Can See Your Credit Report When it is Frozen
A new creditor who requests your file from one of the three credit bureaus will only get a message or a code indicating that the file is frozen.
However, some entities still will be able to obtain your credit information, even when you have placed a freeze on your file. Your credit report can still be released to existing creditors or to debt collectors acting on their behalf to review your file or collect on your account. Creditors can also still use your information to make offers of credit (unless you have opted out of receiving offers at http://www.optoutprescreen.com) Also, government agencies may be able to request access to your credit report. Government users may access your report to collect child support payments, collect taxes, or in response to a court or administrative order, a subpoena, or search warrant.
You will also still be able to request your free annual credit report guaranteed under federal law from www.annualcreditreport.com.
Unfreezing Your Credit Report:
You may need to unfreeze your credit for several reasons. You may want to lift the freeze temporarily if you need to use your credit report for yourself. Or if you are no longer worried that your identity and credit reports are at risk, you may want to unfreeze your credit permanently.
When to Unfreeze Your Credit Report
Most businesses will not open credit accounts without first checking a consumer’s credit history, but there are other reasons you may need to use your credit report. You may want to lift your freeze temporarily if you are:
- Applying for a loan for yourself.
- Seeking for a job which requires a credit check.
- Renting a new apartment.
- Buying insurance.
How to Unfreeze Your Credit Report
Upon your request, the security freeze can be removed free of charge temporarily or permanently. You must unfreeze each credit report individually using the PIN or password provided to you by each credit bureau and requesting they unfreeze your report. You can unfreeze your credit by going to the credit bureau’s website, over the phone, or by mail.
The credit bureau must lift the security freeze 1 hour after receiving the request by phone telephone or online, and up to 3 business days after receiving the request by mail.
To save yourself time if you’re applying for credit or a job, ask the lender or employer which credit report(s) they will use to check your credit and unfreeze only the report(s) you need to use. But, if you are making a number of loan applications (for example, if you are shopping for a home or auto loan) you may want to unfreeze all of your credit reports for lenders to use.
What if I lose my PIN?
If you lose the PIN given to you by a credit bureau, send a letter which explains that you have lost your PIN and would like a new one. Provide your full name, address, and Social Security number in the letter. Enclose a photocopy of your driver’s license or other government-issued photo ID.