How do I Freeze My Credit Report?
Key Points About: How Do I Freeze My Credit
Freezing your credit blocks unauthorized access to your credit file.
Credit freezing may help prevent identity thieves from opening new accounts in your name.
You can request a credit freeze at all three of the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) online, over the phone, or by mail.
Maybe you received a fraud alert from your credit card company, or maybe you found a suspicious charge on your bank statement. Whatever it was, you have reason to believe that you were the victim of identity theft or fraud.
Finding out that someone could have accessed and used your personal information is a frightening prospect. If unchecked, authorized access to your credit file can affect your credit score and make it more difficult to get credit in the future. It can also end up costing you money in fraudulent charges and the expenses required to resolve identity theft issues.
But there are some things you can do to help protect your information, including freezing your credit. A credit freeze (also called a security freeze or credit lock) limits access to your credit report. Freezing your credit may help prevent identity thieves from applying for new credit and opening fraudulent accounts in your name, because a credit lock keeps a potential creditor from being able to pull a copy of your credit report or do a credit check.
Freezing your credit doesn’t mean your credit history is completely off-limits. Your current creditors will still be able to see your credit information even with a credit freeze in place. And government agencies with a court order or search warrant will also be able to access your credit file.
Reasons to freeze your credit
If your information has fallen into the wrong hands, then having a credit freeze in place can make it more difficult for scammers to open accounts without your knowledge. That’s because when you apply for a new credit account, the lender will typically use your Social Security number to do a credit check and may pull your credit file. A frozen credit file prevents this from happening and block unauthorized access to your credit report. Freezing your credit with any major credit bureau is a relatively simple process, but it helps to understand how it works and when it’s the right move for you.
There are some things you can do to help identify fraudulent activity on your account.
- Track what bills you owe and when they’re due. If you’re past due on a bill that should have been paid, it could be a sign that someone has access to your financial accounts.
- Review your bills. Charges for things you didn’t buy or a bill you didn’t expect could be a sign of identity theft.
- Check your bank and credit account statements. Withdrawals you didn’t make and changes to your account that you don’t recognize could be a sign of identity theft.
- Get and review your credit reports. Credit monitoring by checking if there are accounts in your name that you don’t recognize on your credit file, can help you detect fraud.
If you’re a Discover® Cardmember, you can get a free Credit Scorecard with your updated FICO® Score every month and important information like credit utilization, number of missed payments, number of recent inquiries, length of credit history and total number of accounts.1 Reviewing these important key factors can help you detect recent changes to your account.
When to freeze your credit report
It’s probably a good idea to freeze your credit as soon as you receive a fraud alert and suspect an identity thief has your information. Freezing your credit may help prevent fraud on an ongoing basis while you resolve unauthorized activity with your current creditors.
It’s important to note that a credit freeze only protects you from someone opening a new account under your name. If there is an existing account on your credit report that was opened by a fraudster, you will have to take steps to resolve that credit fraud. Additionally, freezing your credit report(s) does not put a hold on any of your open accounts: you’re still responsible to make payments and manage your creditor relationships.
Did you know?
If your credit card is lost or stolen, or you think someone has unauthorized access to your account, you can prevent new transactions. If you’re a Discover® Cardmember, you can Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances and balance transfers.2
Steps to place a credit report freeze
You can submit a freeze request with each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Transunion, and Experian) on the phone, by mail, or online. You’ll have to submit each one separately.
If you’re submitting your credit freeze online, you’ll need to create an online account and give personal information to verify your identity.
Usually, a credit bureau will also ask you for the following information to verify your identity: Full name
- Social Security number
- Date of birth
- Current address
- Previous addresses (if you have moved recently)
Depending on how you submit your credit freeze, you may also need:
- A copy of your passport, driver’s license or military ID
- A copy of tax documents, bank statements or utility bills
- Proof of address, like a utility bill
If you freeze your credit by phone, be prepared to give additional information to verify your identity. Once a credit freeze is in place, it secures your credit file until you lift the freeze.
How to lift a credit freeze
You probably shouldn’t lift your credit freeze until you’ve resolved any fraud issues on your account. But still, there are some instances where you may want to unfreeze your credit temporarily. For example, if you plan to buy a home, rent an apartment, or sign up for a cell phone plan, you’ll need to lift your credit freeze so that the creditor can run a credit check. And if you are on the market for a new job, some employers will also want to check your credit.
Lifting your credit freeze doesn’t have to be permanent and doesn’t have to apply to everyone. You can submit a request to lift your freeze for a specific company or for a specific period of time.
For example, if you are applying for new credit, you can ask the creditor which credit bureau they use to check credit and only unfreeze with that credit reporting agency. Or, if you are applying for loan and need to submit several applications, you can choose to unfreeze your credit at all three credit bureaus for a short period of time.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), if your request is made online or over the phone, a credit bureau must lift the freeze within an hour. To unfreeze your credit online, go to the credit bureau’s website and log in with the account you created to freeze your credit.
If you are unfreezing your credit by phone or mail, you will have to supply more verifying information, such as your Social Security number and address. It is important to note that if you’re submitting the request by mail, the process can take up to three business days from when the request was received. Your credit freeze will automatically resume after the time you specified ends.
Remember: a credit freeze does not apply to current creditors. You will have to keep making payments to your credit card issuer and other creditors unless you report the fraudulent activity. If you suspect identity fraud on your credit card account, you will also have to report the activity to the credit card company and the police. You also have the option of freezing your credit card account if your credit card is lost or stolen.
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