Help protect your finances if you fear you’ve been the victim of identity theft.
Identity theft is a growing problem for people across the globe, with an estimated 15 million Americans affected each year. One way to protect yourself against the financial aftermath that a stolen identity can cause is to freeze your credit report. Find out what this means, how to request one and when it might be a good idea.
What is a credit report freeze?
A credit report freeze essentially stops lenders and credit card companies from accessing your credit report, so lenders can’t approve a new loan or credit account.
For example, if your Social Security number is stolen and you issue a credit freeze, thieves can’t use your personal information to take out a loan or open a new credit card in your name because the lenders won’t have access to your credit report.
So while freezing your credit report doesn’t necessarily stop identity theft from happening, it can protect you and your credit when thieves steal your personal information.
Will a freeze affect my credit score?
No, freezing your credit does not affect your credit score. However, it keeps you or anyone else from opening up a new credit account or getting approved for a loan. So if you issued a freeze, make sure you remove the freeze before applying for credit.
A credit freeze won’t do anything to monitor suspicious activity on your bank and credit card accounts, so you’ll still need to keep an eye on these things
How do I freeze my credit report with each bureau?
You can freeze your credit report online, by phone or by mail. Here’s how to freeze your report with each of the three major credit bureaus:
What documentation do I need to freeze my credit report?
Before starting the credit freeze process, have this information on hand:
- Your full legal name
- Your current address
- Your Social Security number
- Your driver’s license state and number
- Your date of birth
How much does it cost?
It used to cost anywhere from $3 to $10 per credit bureau to freeze your credit report, depending on the state in which you live. But on May 24, 2018, President Trump signed into law a bill that makes placing and lifting a freeze on your credit report free for all US citizens, no matter where you live. This law is expected to take effect sometime in September 2018.
The new law also requires credit reporting agencies to freeze, thaw or lift your credit report within one business day if you placed a request online or by phone, and within three business days if you placed a request by mail.
How do I thaw my credit report?
There are two ways to remove a freeze on your credit report. You can temporarily lift or “thaw” the freeze so that you can apply for a loan, open a new credit account or get an extensive background check. If you know which credit agency your lender or potential employer uses, you can request a thaw for only that agency. Otherwise, you’ll have to use your unique PIN for each of the three credit bureaus to request a thaw from each.
A temporary thaw can take up to three days. Once it’s issued, the thaw will only last for a predetermined amount of time. After that, your report will go back to being frozen and inaccessible.
Your other option is to permanently remove the freeze from your credit report. You’ll need to request this from all three credit bureaus using your PIN.
You can thaw or permanently remove a freeze from your account online, by phone or by mail, using the same contact information as when you initially froze your account.
What if I lost my security PIN?
- Experian. Go online to the Experian Security Freeze page and click Retrieve My Personal Identification Number (PIN). Fill out the form to get your new PIN.
- Equifax. Request a new PIN in writing and include ID, like a copy of your driver’s license, passport or birth certificate. Send your request to: Equifax Security Freeze, PO Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348.
- TransUnion. Call 888-909-8872 to get a new PIN by answering a few questions to confirm your identity. You can also mail a request in writing along with proof of identification to: TransUnion, Attn: Security Freeze, PO Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016.
Should I freeze my credit report?
Freezing your credit report is an extreme step that comes with a variety of pros and cons. The best candidate for a credit freeze is someone who has reason to believe their identity or personal information has been compromised.
- Reduced risk of identity theft. Freezing your credit makes it impossible for identity thieves to open up new credit accounts or loans in your name.
- Credit score isn’t affected. You won’t have to worry about your credit score taking a dip if you decide to freeze your report.
- Will soon be free. After September 2018, freezing, thawing and removing a freeze to your credit report will be free to all US citizens.
- Can’t open new credit. While your credit report is frozen, you won’t be able to open up new accounts or take out a loan.
- Need your PIN to make changes. You’ll need to keep track of your security PINs for all three credit bureaus to make changes to your freeze status.
- Can’t instantly remove a freeze. It can take up to three business days to thaw or remove a credit freeze.
If you’re concerned about the security of your personal information or if you know you’ve been a victim of identity theft, freezing your credit report is a safety measure that prevents anyone from taking out loans or opening new credit accounts in your name — including yourself. So if you’re planning on applying for a loan or new credit account in the near future, you may want to hold off on a freeze, or be prepared to request a thaw when you need to access your credit.