What does it mean to put a security freeze on my credit report?
Answer: 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 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
Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia have laws that govern the procedures and requirements for security freezes and how much you can pay for them. For the remaining states (Alabama, Michigan, and Missouri), the nationwide credit reporting companies have voluntarily given residents the opportunity to place freezes. Freezes are generally free for victims of identity theft to place, and in some states to lift. Others may be charged a fee.
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:
- Equifax: Place, Temporarily Lift or Permanently Remove a Security Freeze, (800) 685-1111
- Experian: Security Freeze, (888) 397-3742
- TransUnion: Manage a State Security Freeze Online, (800) 680-7289
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.
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