“Give credit where credit is due—otherwise freeze it.” Ok, that’s not an actual quote, but yes, you should consider freezing your credit in certain situations. A credit freeze can also be called a security freeze, but why would freezing your credit be beneficial?
It’s an active, simple way to help prevent online criminals from opening new accounts in your name. How? By ensuring that the information in your credit reports isn’t accessible to anyone without your consent. It’s free, but it does require a bit of leg work as you have to separately contact all three of the major credit bureaus.
The great thing about credit freezes is that they help keep you safer from cybercrime and identity theft. So, if you suspect that your personal data, like your Social Security number, has been compromised, you should consider moving ahead with a credit freeze.
However, credit freezes make it difficult to apply for credit, and there are other ways to protect your identity. More on that below, but first, what are the steps to freeze your credit?
The steps to freeze your credit
So you want to know how to freeze your credit? There are three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. To freeze your credit, you should:
- Contact each of the three bureaus (see below for phone numbers and contact info)
- Provide them your name, address, birthday, and Social Security number
- Confirm your identity with them
- Request that they freeze your credit
As mentioned, freezing your credit has been free under federal law since 2018.
Equifax – go to the Equifax site or call 1-800-685-111.
Experian – visit them online at their Credit Freeze Center or call 1-888-EXPERIAN.
TransUnion – go to the TransUnion site or you can do it via their automated phone system or talk to a live agent at 1-888-909-8872.
How long does a credit freeze last?
When it comes to learning how to put a freeze on your credit, you should also be aware of how long credit freezes last. Usually, they last until you lift (or “thaw”) them, but in some states, a credit freeze expires after seven years.
How do credit freezes work?
Essentially, they protect you by preventing anyone from accessing your credit reports. If you (or someone who’s stolen your personal information) apply for credit using your personal information, a lender checks your credit and bases their decision on what they find. But if your credit’s frozen, the lender can’t see what they need to in order to grant you credit.
If any of the following occurs, it’s a good idea to freeze your credit:
- You receive mysterious bills under your name or someone else’s name
- You see new inquiries or credit accounts on your credit report
- Your bank informs you that there’s been fraud on your account
- You’re a victim of a data breach
As mentioned, there are a few downsides to freezing your credit. Contacting each credit bureau takes time. Also, it can delay your applications for jobs, cell phone service, or other things that require a credit check, because you need to “thaw” your credit freeze each time. Finally, if your accounts have already been accessed by thieves, it’s too late for a credit freeze to help.
One alternative to a credit freeze is a fraud alert.
Placing a fraud alert
If you think your information may have been compromised but don’t yet have evidence of identity theft, a fraud alert may be a better option than a credit freeze. A fraud alert tells lenders to make sure that the applicant really is you before opening a new account, while still allowing you to access credit. There are three types of fraud alerts:
- One-year fraud alert
- Extended fraud alert (7 years)
- Active-duty alert: place when you are on active military duty (1 year)
There is no charge for a fraud alert, and if you place this with one credit bureau, the other two will be automatically notified. However, if you want to end the fraud alert before its prescribed duration, you must call all three credit bureaus to cancel.
Become a member of IDShield
In addition to freezing your credit, the best step you can take is to protect your Personal Identifiable Information by getting identity theft protection from IDShield. It’s also the ultimate way to battle data breaches, online thieves and data brokers from stealing and selling your information. Further, IDShield offers extensive dark web monitoring.
IDShield offers best-in-class personal data monitoring, dark web monitoring, Social Security number monitoring, credit monitoring and privacy and reputation management and takes pride in its highly qualified team of professionals, including licensed private investigators, who will help you should an identity theft event occur.
Sign up today for either 1 or 3 credit bureau monitoring. IDShield offers a free trial, so there’s no risk. Think of it as your all-inclusive solution to identity protection, credit monitoring, reputation management and identity restoration.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a credit freeze?
A credit freeze stops the credit bureaus from releasing your credit information to any potential lender, making it difficult for an identity thief to open new lines of credit in your name.
Should I freeze my credit?
If you know your personal information has been compromised, it might be a good idea to freeze your credit until the identity theft has been resolved.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft is when someone steals your personal information to obtain goods and services.
Is credit monitoring worth it?
Yes. Credit monitoring services help keep a close eye on your credit by tracking changes in your credit reports. If there are significant changes, these services (such as IDShield) can alert you immediately. If these alerts indicate identity fraud has occurred, and you’re still wondering what is a freeze on credit and how it can help, please read the above.
Is freezing credit my only option if I suspect ID fraud?
No. You can also place a fraud alert on your accounts.
Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. (“PPLSI”) provides access to legal and identity theft services through membership-based participation. IDShield is a product of PPLSI. All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. The information available in this blog is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide professional advice, render an option, or provide any specific recommendations. The blog post is not a substitute for competent and professional advice. Information contained in the blog may be provided by authors who could be third-party paid contributors. All information by authors is accepted in good faith; however, PPLSI makes no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability, or completeness of such information.