If you have ever been a target of identity theft, you would understand the importance of knowing how to immediately freeze your credit when required. In such cases, victims often end up serving the time for the crime they have not committed. Don’t worry! Now the procedure of the security freeze has been made easy and accessible to all the customers. Find out here how credit freeze works and when you should opt for it.
Is Security Freeze Important?
This question can be rephrased to ask “Is your credit report important?” In this most of the readers will immediately reply with a YES, Similarly, a security freeze is important because it saves your credit report from landing in the wrong hands. It also protects you from the additional damages that identity theft can result in.
Now, before you start to wonder “how will the creditors and lenders access my report then?“, it is important to know that a freeze does not block out your credit report entirely. It only limits the companies from pulling it out without your consent. You can still choose to unblock your credit report later or share password with different companies that you are authorizing to view the credit during freeze.
Security Freeze Has Loop-holes! “Creditors and lenders with whom you already have accounts can access your credit report and score without you first unlocking your credit report.”
When Should You Choose To Freeze Your Credit
Is it always a good idea to freeze your credit report? We would not suggest it unless you are being targeted for identity theft or facing any such serious issues. Perhaps you should only opt for a security freeze when you have been victim of one of the following.
Freeze Your Credit When Facing Data Breach
This means that your personal information has been compromised and the hackers could open new accounts using your name and data. In this case it is best to immediately go for a credit freeze to provide an extra layer of protection against cyber-criminals. How will that work? We know that lenders are also restricted from accessing your credit report when it is under freeze. This means that they will not be able to grant credit to anyone unless you authorize it or provide your Social Security Number.
..Or Identity Theft
Are you receiving payment bills from accounts you have never heard of ? Red alert! There are solid chances you have been a victim of identity theft. Before you start to panic, it is best if you simply reach out to all the 3 major credit bureaus and request for a security freeze immediately. This would prevent the criminals from opening anymore accounts using your data.
Attention! A credit freeze would not protect your accounts that have already been exposed.
Did you know? “A provision of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act authorizes parents or guardians of children under 16 to set up a credit report for their child and then freeze it at no cost.”
Here’s How You Can Freeze Your Credit In One Easy Step
For something that is so important, it almost makes sense that freezing your credit should not be a hectic task. You already have enough to worry about, the solution should come as easy as possible. Now, it does! All you need to do in order to freeze your credit report is:
Contact The 3 Major Credit Bureaus and Freeze Your Credit Immediately
That’s it! It is possible to freeze your credit immediately by contacting the 3 major credit reporting agencies namely Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. However, you need to reach out to all three of them separately. You can do so online, by phone or via call but using their official website to freeze your credit will work quickest. Here’s what you need to do when you have landed on their online page.
Provide Personal Information
First thing first, in order to freeze your report, you need to fill out a form online that will ask for your personal details. These include full name, date of birth, permanent address and social security number.
Receive Personal Identification Number
After you provide the credit bureaus with your personal information you will receive a PIN or a password. This number is required to unfreeze your credit later so remember to keep it safe or note it down to avoid misplacing it. As soon as the request for freezing is complete, the agencies will move to implement the change within one business day.
Note! “You can request or lift a credit freeze by mail. In that case, the credit agency must place or lift the freeze within three business days after it receives your request.”
In case you want to send out a written freeze application, following are the mailing addresses for each bureau.
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, Georgia 30348
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
You might be charged $5-$20 for freezing your credit report or to avail any other related service such as temporarily lifting the freeze, unfreezing and replacing PIN. The payment can be made through a check, money order or a credit card. However, this fee does not apply if you have been a victim of identity theft or above a certain age as different states waive off fee for senior citizens.
Unfreezing Credit Report
Most states have laws highlighting that a credit freeze be automatically removed after 7 years. However, in certain cases it will remain active unless you request for lifting the freeze yourself. In order to do so, you have to visit each of the bureau separately and provide the Personal Identification Number that was delivered to you at the time of freeze application. This can be done via online portal, phone call or mail. The action is prompted immediately except when you are using postal mail. In this case, the unfreeze request may take few days to be processed.
Quick-Tip! “When you are applying for credit, you can ask the creditor which credit bureau it will use to check your credit and unfreeze only that one. Or, if you’re shopping for a loan and may make several applications in a short period, you may choose to lift the freeze at all three major credit bureaus.”
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Does a security freeze affect credit score?
Ans. Freezing or unfreezing credit report does not affect your credit score in any way. However, it will make it difficult for you to access it using third-party sites such as Credit Karma or AnnualCreditReport.
2. Are there any downsides to a credit freeze?
Ans. In most cases, a freeze will provide some extent of protection against data breach and identity theft. However, it is not free of downsides and loop-holes. Most customers are put off by the fact that contacting each bureau separately is hectic and time-consuming. It is also a hefty task to contact them again one by one when you want to left the freeze. However, this can be made easier if you opt for online service instead of call or mail. Nonetheless, placing a credit freeze will also halt job applications or any other service that requires a credit check. Furthermore, it is in no way going to protect your accounts that have already been exposed to the cyber-criminals.
3. Is credit freeze same as fraud alert?
Ans. Although both the terminologies are associated with the security of your credit report, they work differently. A credit freeze will block your report from being accessed by anyone. On the other hand, a fraud alert merely tightens the security by only providing the report to creditors who are able to verify their identity. This can be done by the business calling you or contacting via mail to confirm that you are allowing a certain creditor to get a copy of your report. This can be an effective way to protect yourself if you fear being targeted for data breach or identity theft but have not been a victim of it yet.
Credit freeze is an efficient way to protect yourself against hackers and prevent further loss of personal information and identity theft. Although you need to keep in mind that in order to make it most effective you should aim to contact the bureaus as soon as possible. Also provide all the information correctly so the freeze can be imposed without any complications or delays. You might have to go through a little hassle when you finally decide to left the freeze from each of the agency. Nonetheless, a simple step of keeping yourself safe can prove to be beneficial in the long run.