How To Freeze Your Credit Report After Identity Theft
Freezing your credit report is sometimes necessary. It can help prevent identity thieves from opening new lines of credit and other accounts in your name. Its often recommended when youre dealing with the ramifications of identity theft.
A credit freeze allows you to restrict access to your credit report. When you freeze your credit file, you prevent potential creditors from accessing certain financial and personal information. Creditors are unlikely to let you or an identity thief open, say, a new credit card, if they cant access your credit report. Thats because they wont be able to assess your creditworthiness.
If you need to freeze your credit, you can get a free credit freeze by requesting one at each of the three major credit reporting agencies. More on that later.
Temporary Vs Permanent Credit Freeze Lift
There are two types of credit freeze lifts:
- Temporary lift. A temporary lift can last between one and 30 days. This option is best if youre applying for an auto loan, mortgage or credit card, as it provides enough time for banks and lenders to review your credit. With temporary freezes, credit bureaus will automatically put a freeze back on your credit report after the designated time is up.
- Permanent lift. Permanent lifts, with no specified end date, are best when you know your credit report will be checked by multiple entities, such as landlords and utility companies when you relocate. Once youre all set after your move, be sure to reinstate your credit freeze.
How Do You Freeze Your Credit
To freeze your credit, youâll need to contact each of the three major credit bureaus: EquifaxÂ®, ExperianÂ® and TransUnionÂ®.
Each bureau has its own process, but be prepared to share some personal information, such as your Social Security number and birthdate. Youâll also have to verify yourself. That might mean providing copies of personal documents, such as a driverâs license and a bank statement.
Each bureau lets you freeze your credit online. Itâs a great option because you can also quickly unfreeze your account that way. But they also have telephone and mail options, which you might need if youâre freezing the credit of someone else.
You can visit each bureauâs website for the latest information. But here are some basics about each bureau to get you started:
How to Freeze Your Credit With Equifax
Hereâs how Equifax says you can freeze your credit:
Hereâs how Experian says you can freeze your credit:
Hereâs how TransUnion says you can freeze your credit:
- Online:Create a free account with TransUnion. Youâll be able to use the account to manage your freeze and access other services.
- Phone: Call 888-909-8872 to place a freeze over the phone. When you call, youâll have to choose a six-digit PIN.
- Mail:TransUnion says to include your name, address and SSN in your letter. It also notes youâll need to choose a six-digit PIN. Mail written requests to:
- TransUnion Woodlyn, PA 19094
Important Things to Remember About Credit Freezes
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How To Freeze Your Credit
If you want to freeze your credit you can do so by contacting each of the three major credit bureaus. Here’s how to reach them:
- Equifax: Online at or by phone at 800-685-1111
- Experian: Online at or by phone at 888-397-3742
- TransUnion: Online at or by phone at 888-909-8872
To freeze your credit you’ll need to give each credit bureau your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, and other identifying personal information. Experian and TransUnion require you to set a unique PIN to freeze and unfreeze your credit, though Equifax does not.
Freezing your credit is free, and you’ll need to do it with all three credit bureaus to lock down each of your credit reports. And again, the freeze will stay in place until you lift it.
Whats A Credit Freeze
A is similar to a credit lock in that it prevents lenders from accessing your credit. However, unlike a credit lock, which lets you instantly grant or deny someone access to your credit, a credit freeze requires you to reach out to the three credit bureaus to ask them to make your credit accessible or inaccessible to others.
As with credit locks, credit freezes have benefits and drawbacks.
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What’s The Difference Between A Credit Lock And A Credit Freeze
While the end results are similar, . The major differences are as follows:
- Credit freezes are free, and their availability is mandated under federal law. They may be obtained by phoning or sending mail to Experian, Equifax or TransUnion. Unlike credit lock services, you can request credit freezes for your children under the age of 16, as well as for yourself.
- The credit bureaus are required to complete a freeze on your credit information within 24 hours of receiving a phone request and must lift the freeze within one hour following a phone request.
- When you request a credit freeze from a given bureau, it will give you a PIN that you must use when requesting the freeze’s removal. If you cannot supply your PIN, the freeze can still be lifted, but additional identity verification will be needed, and the one-hour response requirement is removed.
- After registering with each bureau and verifying your identity with them, you can turn access to your credit files on and off instantly via smartphone app or online, with no delays or PINs, when you lock your credit.
A convenience of credit lock is that it enables you to coordinate with lenders to enable access to your credit score when they need it to process your loan application, and then turn access off again when they finish.
How To Freeze Your Credit With Experian
If you want an easy and free way to minimize your chances of identity theft, you should freeze your credit. Once you do, only companies with which you already do business will be able to view your credit files, and it will be nearly impossible for someone else to open a new account in your name.
The drawback to freezing your credit is that you wont be able to open a new account either. This can be a big problem when youre trying to buy a car or a house, or even to get a new cellphone or cable-TV contract. Because of this, the credit bureaus make it easy to temporarily or permanently unfreeze your credit.
Unlike fraud alerts, you have to set up a credit freeze with each of the Big Three credit-reporting agencies Equifax, Experian and TransUnion individually. Fortunately, freezing and unfreezing your credit is now free across the United States thanks to a law that went into effect one year after 2017s massive Equifax data breach.
Unlike Equifax or TransUnion, Experian doesnt require you to set up an account with it to freeze your credit. You simply verify your identity, and then youll create a 5-to-10 digit PIN with which you can temporarily or permanently lift the freezes.
You can set the dates and duration for temporary thawing periods. Experian also lets you create a one-time PIN that you can give to a potential creditor such as a company offering you a car loan so that it can see your credit file just once.
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How A Parent Can Freeze A Minors Credit
Usually, children are not the group to be concerned about when it comes to credit scores and reports, but also keep in mind that their credit is a blank slate. Many thieves know it, and if they get the chance to use your childs identity to open accounts, you may not know until they are an adult! Putting a freeze on your childs credit is a free way to restrict access to their personal information. It also provides the opportunity to give them the blank slate they deserve until they are 16. To freeze your childs credit, you will need to:
How To Unfreeze Credit With Equifax
You can unfreeze your Equifax credit report online by creating a “myEquifax” account. A PIN is no longer needed for online freezing or lifting an Equifax credit freeze. Equifax allows you to unfreeze your credit temporarily for a specific creditor or for a specified period, from one day to one year. You can also permanently unfreeze your credit, which NerdWallet does not recommend.
If you choose to unfreeze or reinstate a freeze by phone or mail at Equifax, you will need a PIN.
Contact info:Equifax Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348 800-349-9960.
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How To Unfreeze Credit
Unfreezing credit, sometimes called thawing, can be done on a temporary or permanent basis.
Itâs free to unfreeze your credit, but the process is different at each bureau. Hereâs what they say:
- Equifax: You can manage and unfreeze your account in multiple ways. But it might make sense to use the same method you used to place the freeze. You can , call 888-298-0045 or use the same form to submit a request through the mail.
- Experian: Make sure you have the PIN you were given when you placed your freeze. Itâs crucial whether youâre removing a freeze online or over the phone . If you donât remember your PIN, youâll have to go through the verification process again. You can also submit through the mail, but youâll need to provide the same information and documents used to freeze your credit.
- TransUnion: The bureau says that the simplest way to remove a freeze is to do it online. You may also be able to do it over the phone or through the mail. You can call TransUnion at 888-909-8872 to find out more.
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Should I Temporarily Unfreeze My Credit Report
There are two ways to temporarily unfreeze credit:
- If youre applying for a loan, you could ask your lender which bureau they use and unfreeze just that account for a specified date range, or you can unfreeze indefinitely and refreeze once the process is done. Just make sure not to forget to refreeze.
- You can lift a freeze for a specified number of days .
Temporarily unfreezing your credit is safer than permanently unfreezing credit, as it can still protect you against identity theft. Also, if you do a temporary unfreeze, you wont need to worry about remembering to freeze your credit again.
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Comparing Credit Freezes And Credit Locks
TransUnion: Free with TransUnions TrueIdentity credit monitoring service. $19.95 a month with the TrueIdentity Premium service. You cant sign up for a credit lock without enrolling in one of the programs.
Experian: Free for the first 30 days, then $19.99 a month to keep the credit lock in place, after the free trial ends.
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How To Lock Your Credit Report At Experian
Experians program, CreditLock, is offered as part of a larger service, Experian CreditWorksSM Premium. It costs $4.99 the first month, and $24.99 a month after that. The program comes with other perks, like credit monitoring for all three bureaus, monthly FICO® credit scores and reports for all three bureaus, up to $1 million in identity theft insurance, and a dedicated agent to help you if you think youre a victim of fraud or identity theft. You can enroll on Experians website.
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How To Unfreeze Your Credit Report
Data breaches have unfortunately become a common occurrence. In the aftermath of breaches, some experts and pundits recommend consumers forgo fraud alerts and instead take the more aggressive measure of freezing their credit reports. If you’re unsure which method is best for you, read about the differences between a credit freeze and a fraud alert.
Freezing your credit report can be a good move to help protect yourself from fraudsters stealing your information, opening accounts and spending money in your name. It also means that when you want to apply for credit, you will first need to unfreeze your report.
Lifting Your Credit Freeze
Lifting your credit freeze, whether temporarily or permanently, requires contacting credit agencies through the websites, by phone, or by mail. Its free to lift a credit freeze.
Heres a tip if you need to temporarily lift a credit freeze if youre applying for credit or a job. Ask the business which credit bureau it plans to contact. That way, you can lift just one credit freeze instead of all three.
Whether you decide a credit freeze is a good idea for you or not, its smart to take other steps to help protect against identity theft and fraud. For instance, its a good idea to monitor your credit reports. That way, you can see if your credit report contains any suspicious activity and take steps to dispute it and have it removed.
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When To Use A Credit Freeze
You should freeze your credit if you believe youve been the victim of identity theft or if your personal or financial information has been exposed in a data breach. Freezing your credit can help keep predators from opening new accounts in your name.
But this isnt the only time you should consider a credit freeze. If you want to help protect yourself from identity theft, you should keep your credit frozen at all times unless you are actively applying for a new credit card or loan. When you are applying for credit or debt, you can unfreeze your credit temporarily.
Make sure, though, that you freeze your credit at all three credit bureaus.
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Differences Between A Credit Freeze And A Credit Lock
A credit freeze may offer stronger protection than a credit lock. This means youre not financially responsible if someone exploits your credit during the freeze. And under a federal law passed in 2018, credit bureaus are required to let you freeze and unfreeze your credit free of charge.
A credit lock is simply an agreement between you and a credit bureau to pause any new accounts in your name. Since credit locks are a voluntary feature, bureaus arent legally required to make good on any losses, and you may have to pay a fee.
While its true you can lock and unlock your credit in an instant, it doesnt take much longer to thaw your credit. In fact, credit bureaus are required to unfreeze an account within an hour of receiving the request.
Unfreezing Your Credit With Transunion
- Online: You’ll need to create an online account with TransUnion or go through the myTransUnion app.
- Call 888-909-8872.
- Mail your written request to TransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 160, Woodlyn, PA 19094.
Unfreezing your credit at one credit bureau won’t unfreeze it at the other two. Unless you know which one your lender plans to contact, you’ll need to make the request at each bureau to ensure there are no glitches when you apply for a loan.
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How Do I Freeze Or Lock My Credit
Consumers can ask for a credit freeze at all three major credit bureaus, either online or by phone.
To begin the process, youll need to provide some personal information to set up an account and obtain a PIN. Remember to keep PINs on file for when youre ready to unfreeze.
Heres how to get started with each bureau:
- Equifax: Create a MyEquifax account to place or lift a security freeze online, or call 1-800-349-9960
- Experian: Visit Experians security freeze center or call 1-888-EXPERIAN
- TransUnion: Add a freeze at transunion.com/credit-freeze or call 1-888-909-8872
Following these same steps, parents, guardians, and those with power of attorney can obtain a freeze for their dependents.
How To Lift A Credit Freeze At Each Of The Three Major Credit Bureaus
In order to place or remove a credit freeze on your credit reports, you must contact each of the three major credit bureaus individually. It might be worth asking your potential creditor or employer which bureau it uses for credit checks. That way youll only have to lift the freeze with a single bureau instead of all three.
You can request credit freezes and reversals . Youll likely need to provide your name, address, birthdate and Social Security number in order to place a freeze.
Each credit bureau will give you a unique PIN when you place a freeze on your file. Depending on how youre doing it, you may need the PIN to temporarily lift or permanently remove the credit freeze in the future, so be sure to find it before beginning the process of lifting your freeze.
Heres a rundown of how it works at all three major credit bureaus:
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