If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, have had your personal information compromised, or are just looking for added protection, freezing your credit is the best thing you can do. It may be intimidating to freeze your credit, but it doesn’t have to be. In this article we’ll explain what a credit freeze is, how to freeze it, and answer other questions you may have.
What Is a Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze is the best way to restrict access to your credit. This means that you, and anyone else, can’t open a new credit account while it’s in place. However, this doesn’t impact your life significantly and you’ll still be able to get a new job or rent an apartment. If you do need to apply for credit, though, it’s very simple to temporarily lift the hold.
How a Credit Freeze Works
A credit freeze, otherwise known as a security freeze, works by placing a hold on your credit report to prevent a new credit account from being opened. This is a great option to protect yourself from identity theft or stop more theft from happening. To effectively freeze your credit, you need to contact each of the credit reporting agencies; Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.
How to Freeze Your Credit
There are several steps you need to take to freeze your credit but it’s relatively easy and is effective within an hour of placing it. First, you must follow all the steps from each of the credit reporting agencies.
You can freeze your credit with each of the three credit bureaus by visiting their dedicated web pages. You’ll likely set up a PIN or password with each of the agencies to allow you the ability to lift your credit freeze in the future, it’s important to choose a PIN or password you don’t use anywhere else and isn’t easily guessed.
Once you’ve decided to place a credit freeze you’ll need to collect and be ready to provide your personal information. You’ll need to provide:
- Full name including middle initial
- Date of birth
- Social security number
- All addresses from the last two years
- A copy of a government issued ID (i.e. drivers license or passport)
- One copy of a bank statement or utility bill
After you’ve collected that information it’s time to visit the bureaus’ websites and start the process of the freeze. A credit freeze happens within one hour of being placed.
How Long Does a Credit Freeze Last?
A credit freeze lasts indefinitely. However, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it. You can always lift the credit freeze permanently or temporarily.
How to Remove Your Credit Freeze
It’s relatively easy to lift your credit freeze temporarily or permanently. You can lift a freeze for a specific lender, a set period of time, or permanently. Each credit bureau has specific requirements for lifting a credit freeze, so you’ll want to contact each of them. Typically you’ll contact them by phone and provide the PIN or password that you created when placing the freeze.
Once you’ve contacted each of the bureaus, the freeze will be lifted within one hour. However, if you’ve forgotten your PIN or password, they will need to verify your identity, which makes the process significantly longer.
Should You Freeze Your Credit?
There are many reasons why you may want to freeze your credit. If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, have had your personal information compromised (i.e. social security number), or are wanting an added layer of protection and peace of mind, then you’ll want to place a credit freeze.
By placing a credit freeze, no one will be able to open credit accounts in your name and if you’re needing to apply for a new credit account it’s easy to temporarily lift the freeze for a specific lender or short period of time to maintain the protection of a freeze.
Can I Freeze My Child’s Report?
It’s possible to freeze a child’s credit report if they have credit files and they’ve been a victim of identity theft or you’re just looking for extra protection. To freeze your child’s credit report there are a few extra steps you’ll need to take. You’ll need to provide documentation proving your authority to place a freeze, which can include:
- A birth certificate
- Court order
- Power of attorney
- A government issued document attesting your parental authority
Once your child comes of age, you can unfreeze their credit.
Does a Credit Freeze Hurt Your Credit Score?
No, a credit freeze has absolutely no impact on your credit score. A credit freeze is simply a way to protect yourself from identity theft. However, if you don’t thaw your report prior to applying for credit, a lender will have no way to evaluate your credit worthiness and will delay the processing of your application.
Is Freezing Your Credit the Same as Locking It?
A credit freeze and credit lock are similar in concept, where they both prevent new credit accounts from being opened, but are different. A credit freeze is a good option if you’ve experienced identity theft or want protection against it. A freeze is also a free option.
Credit locks are primarily different because they’re usually a paid subscription that will send you alerts and also offer identity theft insurance. You can have both a credit freeze and a credit lock for extra protection.