What is a credit freeze, aka a security freeze? It’s a “lock” on your credit reports that blocks third parties from viewing your credit score. It also blocks new lines of credit under your name, ensuring that online criminals cannot open new accounts.
In other words, a credit freeze is a hedge against identity theft.
Is it an extreme step? Sure, but freezes are temporary and when it comes to addressing identity theft, it’s much more effective than a simple fraud alert. So, if you suspect that your personal data, like your Social Security number, has been compromised, you should consider a credit freeze.
What to know before you do it
You should take into account several factors before freezing your credit.
Be aware that:
- You can’t apply for credit while your reports are frozen – you need to lift the freeze if you want to apply for credit.
- You need to apply for the credit freeze with all three of the major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion (see below).
- Credit freezes are free for all US residents as of 2018, thanks to The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act. They do, however, require some administrative work on your end.
- You might encounter some delays with respect to some issues, for example, if a lender, or another business, needs to be able to see your credit files.
- A fraud alert may be more appropriate – this lets lenders know to verify that an applicant is who they say they are before opening a new account – while still allowing you to access credit.
The steps to freeze your credit
So we’ve answered the question “what is a freeze on credit” but now, you want to know how to freeze your credit.
To do so, you should:
- Contact each of the bureaus
- Give them your name, address, birthday, and Social Security number
- Confirm your identification with them
- Request that they freeze your credit
As mentioned above, freezing your credit is free, further to a 2018 federal law.
Equifax – go to their website or call 1-800-685-111.
Experiean – 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 does a credit freeze protect your credit?
Good news – freezing your credit doesn’t affect your credit score. Further, it shouldn’t affect any of your current accounts.
The drawbacks of a credit freeze
As mentioned, there are some drawbacks to freezing your credit. For example, when you want to see your credit reports or let a creditor see them, you have to provide your PIN. If you forget your PIN, your creditors can’t assess your credit. Yes, you can still get the credit freeze lifted, but it requires going back to all three major credit bureaus and providing all the necessary info to prove you are who you say you are, not a cybercriminal.
The other major drawback is that credit freezes don’t necessarily stop identity thieves from doing their thing. Nothing about a credit freeze stops someone from stealing your identity and, if a cyber thief already has your personal info like your Social Security number, a credit freeze won’t stop them from doing things like attempting to file a fake tax return. If a thief already has your credit card number, a credit freeze won’t stop them from using it for a shopping spree.
Become a member of IDShield
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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 solution to identity protection, credit monitoring, reputation management and identity restoration.
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.