To reduce your risk of identity theft by restricting access to your credit file, a credit freeze is the right tool that can help. However, a credit freeze can be lifted either temporarily or permanently to allow creditors access to your credit reports
A credit freeze is easy to set up and a smart way to protect against identity theft. When you freeze your credit, you prevent unauthorized access to your credit report.
This helps protect against fraudsters opening new accounts in your name even if they have your personal information.
What is a Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze (also known as a security freeze) restricts access to your credit reports, helping safeguard against fraudsters opening new accounts in your name. There is no affect to your credit score or current credit accounts.
What Information Will I Need to Provide to Freeze My Credit?
In order to freeze your credit, you will need to give each credit bureau some information in order to prove your identity. This typically includes your:
Previous name, if applicable
Date of birth
Social Security Number
You will also likely be asked some questions about prior places of residence and credit accounts you may have or have had in the past. This is all to ensure that you are actually the one requesting the freeze.
How to Freeze Your TransUnion Credit Report
Step 1: Create an account on TransUnion’s credit-freeze page
To create an account, provide your name, address (previous address too, if you’ve lived at your current address for fewer than six months), date of birth, and the last four digits of your Social Security number.
Using a strong and unique password is crucial, as is storing it securely for future logins.
To start, click the Add freeze button. The next page prompts you to create a six-digit PIN. Write down your PIN and keep it in a safe place, in case you need to manage your TransUnion credit report over the phone later. (You won’t need the PIN to manage your account online.)
Consider storing your PIN in the notes section of the 1Password app, or a similar encrypted password manager.
Hit Continue, and you’re all set. Your TransUnion credit report is now frozen.
How Do I Lift a Freeze?
A freeze remains in place until you ask the credit bureau to temporarily lift it or remove it altogether. If the request is made online or by phone, a credit bureau must lift a freeze within one hour.
Also, if the request is made by mail, then the bureau must lift the freeze no later than three business days after getting your request.
If you opt for a temporary lift because you are applying for credit or a job, and you can find out which credit bureau the business will contact for your file, you can save some time by lifting the freeze only at that particular credit bureau.
Otherwise, you need to make the request with all three credit bureaus.
Experian guides its customers to use its online Freeze Center to make changes to their credit file. A credit freeze can also be lifted by phone or mail.
Besides offering temporary and permanent lifts, Experian also offers a one-time PIN that can be provided to a single company or creditor.
That way, the company can check your credit without your having to ask for a credit freeze lift.
An important note: When changing the status of your credit freeze, Experian requires the PIN that it originally provided you when instituting the credit freeze. You’ll need it no matter which method of contact is used.
A credit freeze can be added, temporarily lifted or permanently removed by creating an account on myEquifax. This account is a one-stop shop to monitor the status of your credit report.
Here’s how to contact Equifax.
Mail: Equifax Information Services LLC, P.O. Box 105788 Atlanta, GA 30348-5788
TransUnion offers customers an online account to make changes to a credit freeze. You can also make changes through TransUnion’s mobile app, myTransUnion.
TransUnion allows you to schedule a credit freeze lift up to 15 days in advance. This scheduled lift differs from Experian’s single-use PIN in that it allows any creditor access to the credit report over the period of time that you choose.
A PIN is not required when you use the online account or myTransUnion mobile app, but it is required if you’re making the request via phone.
The short answer is “no.” Freezing your credit will not hurt you credit score at all.
2. Does freezing my credit affect my existing credit cards?
No, freezing your credit has no effect on your existing credit cards. You will still be able to use them as you have been. However, if you want to request a credit line increase from your credit card company, you may need to unfreeze your credit.
3. Can I still apply for a loan or new line of credit with a credit freeze?
Yes, but you’ll have to unfreeze (thaw) your credit temporarily. See the information above for how to do that.
4. How long does it take before your credit freeze is activated?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says that the agency must activate the freeze within one business day if you freeze your credit online or by phone. If you request online that your credit by thawed, the agency must lift the freeze within one hour. If requested by phone, it must be done within three business days, according to the FTC.
Freezing your credit is an important step to take to protect yourself against identity theft. While it doesn’t guarantee you’ll never be a victim of fraud, it can offer some peace of mine.
The process is quick and free to implement, so there’s no financial reason to avoid setting up a credit freeze.