Help Desk FAQ

Credit reports and scores


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.

As of Sept. 21, 2018, you can freeze and unfreeze your credit file for free (there used to be a fee). You also can get a free freeze for your children who are under 16. And if you are someone’s guardian, conservator or have a valid power of attorney, you can get a free freeze for that person, too. Whether you request a freeze online or by phone, the credit bureau must freeze your credit file within one business day. A request to lift the freeze, whether done by phone or online, must be fulfilled within one hour. Mailed requests to place or lift a freeze can take up to three business days.

While a security freeze provides strong protection against identity theft, your reports being inaccessible to anyone who uses credit reports and scores in their decision-making process—that includes insurance companies, landlords, employers doing a background check (in states where it is allowed), cell phone companies and utilities—can be inconvenient.

If you don't think you need to freeze your credit reports but would like an added measure of protection, consider a fraud alert, which notifies creditors to take extra precautions when verifying identity for a credit application submitted in your name. An initial fraud alert lasts one year and entitles you to an extra credit report for free. Learn more at the credit bureau websites.

Learn more about freezing your credit file by reading our Freeze Your Credit File publication.






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