• Valerie Smith

How a Credit Security Freeze Works – And How You Can Get One

Updated: Jul 19, 2019

Your identity is a precious commodity. It seems every few months we hear of another major security breach where a major corporation has compromised the identities of tens of millions of people. In 2018, Marriott, Panera, Newegg, Facebook, and Quora had major data breaches. Sixteen percent of all Americans have been victims of identity theft, according to a Javelin Strategy and Research Study. Unlike replacing a stolen credit card, you cannot call a phone number and get a new Social Security Number and date of birth issued. You must protect this information and safeguard it. Security freezes were developed as a resource to protect consumers.

Whether or not you have been the victim of a security breach or not, you may consider placing a temporary or indefinite security freeze on your profiles with the three major credit bureaus. A security freeze is a valuable tool to protect your credit file from identity thieves and prevent them from opening a new account in your name. In September 2018, a new federal law went into effect, allowing you to freeze and unfreeze your security file for free. You may also get a freeze for your children under 16, and anyone you are guardian, conservator or have a valid power of attorney for. You may specify a date range for a freeze, or keep the freeze place indefinitely, until you tell the agency to lift it. You can even place a freeze on the account of a deceased relative.

If a freeze in effect on your account, you cannot go into a car dealership and apply for a car loan, as the car dealership will be unable to process your application. This also means that anyone impersonating you would be unable to apply for a car loan, or apply for a credit card, and have it shipped to their PO Box. It gives you peace of mind that your personal information is safe, as no one will be able to access your information. If you are not going to be actively shopping for credit anytime soon, placing a security freeze on your credit is a good choice. It is free to do and easy to undo. While all three of the credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) offer paid subscription credit monitoring, they are required by law to allow you to place a freeze on your credit at no cost.

Note: A security freeze protects access to your personal credit history, credit score and file, and does not restrict or prevent use of individual credit cards. If you are looking to temporarily prevent charges on your credit cards, contact your card issuer. Most banks and credit card issuers offer this service.

. Below are the phone numbers to call to request a security freeze.

  • Equifax 800-685-1111

  • Experian 888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)

  • Transunion 888-909-8872

You can also request a security freeze online on any of the three credit bureau websites, or by mail. You will need to provide your full name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information. Upon receipt of your request, each credit bureau will provide you a PIN or password. Keep this in a safe place, as you will need it to lift (or thaw) the freeze.

“Unfreezing Your Security Freeze”

Fortunately, the credit bureaus make it easy to unfreeze your file, if you are actively seeking credit, such as shopping for a home or car. When you put a security freeze on your credit file, you will be provided a PIN or password. You’ll simply need to go online to your credit account, or call back to authorize the temporary release of your credit report for a specific person or period, or lift it completely. To “unfreeze” your credit file, you will need to provide:

  1. Adequate identification to verify your identity (name, social security number, date of birth and address).

  2. The PIN or password provided by the credit reporting company when you froze the account.

  3. An authorization that you elect to remove the security freeze from your credit file or that you authorize the reporting agency to temporarily release your file. If you are authorizing a limited release to one party, you must identify the person or organization who is to receive your credit report. If you’re authorizing a limited time window, you must specify the time period that you wish to lift the freeze.

What’s the Difference Between a Credit Security Freeze and the “Paid” Options w/ the Credit Bureaus?

Experian sells a product called Experian CreditLock, which is different than a security freeze. It is a paid subscription service that offers daily monitoring of your credit file, and some identify theft protection, including alerts of any new account openings. You can essentially freeze and unfreeze your Experian file within your Experian Account and without having to remember the PIN. This service is $24.99 / month, and does little more than the free security freeze service other than provide a little added convenience.

Do you Still Need to Monitor Activity on Your Credit Report?

Even if you place a security freeze on with all three bureaus, stay alert on any suspicious activity. Remember that just because you weren’t a victim of identity theft following a data breach, you could still be a victim years down the road. Keeping a security freeze on your account will make it much harder for identity thieves to access your information. Even with a freeze, you still need to review your free credit report look for any activity you don’t recognize. You can still review your own credit report for free if you have a security freeze on your account.

All information and materials in this article are for educational purposes only. Opinions expressed in this article are based on information considered reliable, but The Daily Money Show cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information nor should it be relied upon. The information discussed in this article should not be used as a recommendation to buy or sell securities nor should it be taken as investment advice. The Daily Money Show is not a Registered Investment Advisor or Broker Dealer. The Daily Money Show is not an accounting firm and does not give tax advice regarding any security or real estate transaction. You may want to consult with an accountant, attorney, real estate agent or financial advisor before proceeding with any transaction regarding securities or real estate.

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