What does it mean to put a security freeze on my credit report?
A security freeze prevents prospective creditors from accessing your credit file.
Creditors typically won't offer you credit if they can't access your credit reporting file, so a security freeze, also called a credit freeze, prevents you or others from opening accounts in your name. Security freezes can be useful in preventing an identity thief from opening a new credit account in your name.
Only a limited number of entities can see your file while a freeze is in place, including:
- Creditors of accounts you currently hold
- Certain government entities like child support agencies
- Companies that you've hired to monitor your credit file
Free Security Freezes
Under a federal law effective September 21, 2018, you can freeze and unfreeze your credit record for free at the three nationwide credit reporting companies – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. The federal law requiring free security freezes does not apply to someone who requests your credit report for employment, tenant-screening, or insurance purposes. Other credit reporting companies, for example employment or tenant screening companies, might charge a fee to place and lift a security freeze based on your state laws.
You can place a "freeze" on your credit file at any time, but you must contact each credit reporting company. For more information, visit the nationwide credit reporting companies' websites or call the numbers below:
Security Freeze Notice and Timing
- A nationwide credit reporting company must place a security freeze within 1 business day of your request if made by telephone or secure electronic means. If the request is made by mail, the security freeze must be placed no later than 3 business days after receiving the request.
- A nationwide credit reporting company must send you a written confirmation of the security freeze no later than 5 business days after the security freeze is placed. They must also tell you of how to remove the security freeze.
- The nationwide consumer reporting company’s webpage must also allow you to request a security freeze, an initial fraud alert, an extended fraud alert, and an active duty fraud alert.
Temporary Lift of Security Freeze
- Upon your request, the security freeze can be removed free of charge. The security freeze will be removed no later than:
- 1 hour after receiving the request by toll-free telephone or secure electronic means
- 3 business days after receiving the request by mail
- You also have the option to lift the freeze temporarily for a period of time specified by you, free of charge. The same time periods above apply to a temporary removal of your security freeze.
Security Freeze for “Protected Consumers”
- Federal law provides protections related to credit records and identity theft for “protected consumers” under the age of 16 and incapacitated persons or persons for whom a guardian has been appointed. Persons with authority to act for these protected consumers can request a security freeze.
- Additionally, if the nationwide credit reporting company does not have a file on the protected consumer at the time the security freeze is requested by the parents or guardians, the company will create a record in order to freeze the record for the “protected consumer.” This record of the “protected consumer” may not be used for credit purposes and may only be used to freeze the record to protect against identity theft.
Tip: If you think you may have been the victim of identity theft, you can also file a fraud alert. A fraud alert requires creditors who check your credit report to take steps to verify your identity before opening a new account, issuing an additional credit card, or increasing the credit limit on an existing account based on a consumer's request. An initial fraud alert lasts up to 1 year unless you decided to remove it sooner.