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How to Use a Credit Freeze

Scammers are always trying to find ways to access your personal information and opening accounts in your name. Don’t you wish that you could stop them in their tracks? The good news is, with a credit freeze, you can! If you have any concerns about identity theft, or data breaches, you can put a credit freeze on your report.

A credit freeze is a type of security freeze that restricts access to your credit report, free of charge. It will make it harder for scammers to open new accounts in your name. When you apply for a new account, the creditor needs to see your credit report. But, with a credit freeze, the creditor won’t be able to see your credit report and won’t extend credit.

You may have a few questions as to how a credit freeze can affect your credit. It’s important to know that your credit score will not be affected by a credit freeze. You will still be able to receive your free annual credit report, open a new account, or even rent an apartment. You can temporarily lift the freeze for a specific time or party, for example, if your potential landlord needs to run your credit. There is no charge to lift the freeze and place it again after accessing your account. However, you still need to regularly monitor your bank, credit card and insurance statements for any suspicious activity, as a credit freeze does not prevent an identity thief from making charges to your existing accounts.

A credit freeze won’t stop prescreened credit offers from arriving to your home either. You would have to go online to to opt out for five years or permanently. This website is the official Consumer Credit Reporting Industry website that accepts and processes requests to opt in or out of credit offers or insurance. However, when you opt out of prescreened offers, you won’t be able to find out what options are available to you if you are in the market for a credit card. Prescreened offers allow you to compare costs and in some cases, receive more favorable terms than those available to the general public.

Also, keep in mind that existing creditors or debt collectors acting on their behalf will still have access to your credit report. As well as government agencies in response to a court or administrative order, subpoena or search warrant.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, you need to contact each of the major credit bureaus to place a freeze on your credit reports. You will need to provide Equifax, Experian, and Transunion with your name, address, date of birth, social security number and additional personal information. You will receive a unique PIN or password from each bureau once they receive your request (which you will need to provide if you need to lift the freeze). To lift a freeze, you will contact the credit bureaus by mail, phone, or online. If you make a request online or by phone, credit bureaus need to lift the freeze within one hour. If you make a request by mail, the credit bureaus needs to lift the freeze no later than three business days after receiving your request. If you are doing a temporary lift for a credit application or landlord for example, and you know which credit bureau will be contacted, you only need to make the request with that specific bureau and save yourself the trouble of contacting all three. There is a difference between a credit freeze and a fraud alert, though. With a credit freeze, your credit account will be locked. With a fraud alert, creditors will still be able to access a copy of your credit report as long as they have verified your identity. A fraud alert may help stop a scammer from opening new accounts in your name, but they can still misuse your existing accounts and you will still need to monitor all of your accounts for fraudulent activity. So, if you want to take extra security measures and protect your credit accounts, a credit freeze is a great way to do that, especially during the holiday season where identity thieves are just waiting for their next target! Plus, it’s completely free and will not affect your credit score.

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