Help Desk FAQ

Credit Reporting

 

What is a credit security freeze and how does it work?

A security freeze is a tool to prevent identity theft. When you freeze your credit reports with all three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) they become inaccessible unless you unfreeze them using a password or PIN (personal identification number). If a creditor cannot access your credit report or score when it receives an application for credit, it will reject the applicant’s request. This keeps identity thieves from opening new credit in your name. A freeze does not prevent fraud involving your existing bank or credit accounts.

While a security freeze provides strong protection against identity theft, there are some drawbacks that can make this option unattractive to anyone who isn’t at increased risk of becoming a victim. First, many states allow the three credit reporting agencies to charge a fee of up to $20 each to place a freeze. Also, your reports are off limits to anyone who uses credit reports and scores in their decision-making process—that includes insurance companies, landlords, employers doing a background check, cell phone companies, and utilities. You can temporarily lift the freeze, but unless you’re a victim of identity theft, there may be a fee each time you do so.  (In most cases, placing and lifting a security freeze is free for victims of ID theft.) And, depending on what state you live in, it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to three days for the freeze to be lifted.

Consumers Union provides an online state-by-state list of security freeze laws, maximum allowable fees, and agency instructions at www.financialprivacynow.org.

 

Tags/Keywords

id theft, credit reports


 
 
 
 

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