To protect yourself from fraud, the major credit agencies offer the ability to freeze your credit which prevents new credit accounts from being opened. If you suspect or have experienced fraud or identity theft, or even if you have not, it is a good idea to consider a credit freeze for the extra protection it brings.
How Does a Credit Freeze Protect Me?
When you apply for a line of credit, the lender will check your credit report. A credit freeze prevents the lender from retrieving your credit information and approving new lines of credit. If someone else attempts to open credit in your name, it will not be approved while a credit freeze is in place.
How Do I Freeze my Credit?
To freeze your credit, you will need to contact each of the three major credit bureaus individually: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. This can be done online through their websites, or over the phone. When you freeze your credit, you may be required to provide information, or answer questions to verify your identify. You may be asked to create a PIN or password that you can use to remove the credit freeze when needed, so make sure to save that information.
What if I Need to Apply for Credit or Make a Major Purchase?
To unfreeze your credit either permanently or temporarily, you will need to contact each credit bureau that you wish to unfreeze, either by phone or using their website. You will need to provide the PIN or password that you established when you initiated the freeze, or alternatively you may need to answer questions to verify your identity.
The following links can be used to manage your credit freeze with each agency, whether initiating or removing a freeze:
The benefit of a credit freeze is that you can rest easy knowing it will be extremely difficult for someone to open new credit in your name, but you still have the ability to unfreeze it when you know you will be applying for credit. This gives you greater control of your credit and greater protection from fraud.