Ever heard of freeze credit? It is an ideal method to safeguard your credit and prevent your identity from theft or online fraud. Freezing your credit is free and has a simplified process so that you can be relaxed about any unusual activities occurring with your credit account. Sounds interesting? We will be discussing freezing your credit and its essential factors in detail.
A freeze credit enables you to secure the sensitive data in your credit files from being exposed without the credit owner’s consent. This can help you protect your credit from fraudulent activities even if a criminal has accessed your details like birthdate and Social Security Number you can still retrieve all your essential details back.
You must be wondering, what is the procedure for freezing credit files like how to freeze your credit? Is it a reliable safe methodology? How to freeze your credit online seamlessly? And what about accessibility to credit reports? We understand your concerns, this blog is dedicated to giving clarity to your doubts.
Let us walk you through the essential elements of freeze credit for your better understanding.
- What is a Credit Freeze?
- How to freeze your credit?
- When should you freeze your credit?
- Who can access the credit report?
- How to unfreeze your credit?
- Tips on unfreezing credit
- Can I Freeze My Child’s Credit Report?
- Credit Freeze and Fraud Alert
- Can a credit freeze affect your credit score?
- How to freeze your credit online?
- Wrap Up
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze or commonly termed a security freeze blocks access to your credit reports from an unknown party. It protects your data from scammers' attempts to open fraudulent accounts and saves your chances of getting an account hacked. Freezing your credit won't affect your credit scores but calculating scores won’t be possible for officials until and unless you unfreeze your credit.
Credit freeze usually comes into action when a customer places a request who suspects their identity has been stolen. This is the reason most credit account owners prefer to freeze their credit via several bureaus to avoid thieves accessing their accounts and purchasing or making more accounts on your personal information.
Few key points of freeze credit:
- If you want to freeze your credit, you will have to contact each bureau individually
- Frozen credit cannot impact the credit score
- Customers need to request credit bureaus to prevent sharing credit details with any other third party without their consent.
- Placing credit-free requests is free of cost for your and your child’s credit, and unfreezing or applying for new credit costs $0.
How to freeze your credit?
Once you have discovered what frozen credit is, the next question that arises is how to freeze your credit. A credit account owner will have to contact each bureau separately to freeze the credit. We are listing 3 bureaus to help you freeze your credit account easily.
Experian: Go online or call 888‑397‑3742 to initiate the request for freezing your account. Access the entire procedure of freezing credit with Experian by getting in touch with them.
Equifax: Coordinate with experts by accessing information about the bureau online or call at 800-349-9960.
TransUnion: Call 888-909-8872 or go online to understand the procedure of freezing credit with them.
Your top priority must be freezing your credit with these 3 bureaus mentioned above. As an extra precaution step, you can opt to freeze credit reports with less popular bureaus that access your information to protect your account. The names of other bureau options include:
National Consumer Telecom and Utilities Exchanges: Call 866-349-5355 or explore online to get the details.
Innovis: Learn about them online or directly call them at 866-712-4546
The Procedure of Freezing your Credit with Bureaus
Before you begin the journey of a freezing credit account, ensure that you have sorted all the essential documents required for the procedure. While the document requirements may vary from different bureaus, we are listing a few must-have documents.
- Your Address
- Social Security Number
The documents and procedure will vary depending on how you place a request online through phone, or email then you may need additional documents beforehand like -
- A copy of bank statements, utility bills, and tax documents
- Proof of your address, like a utility bill
- A copy of your passport, driver’s license, or military ID
If you apply for freeze credit through your phone, then you will have to undergo an authentication questionnaire procedure as well.
The good news is, once a credit freeze is in place it will secure your credit account and reports till the time you apply to unfreeze the details. If you are wondering, what if I need my credit details for several other procedures? Then you can lift your credit temporarily and if you are looking to open a new credit, even then you can request to unfreeze the old credit account for a specific time horizon.
When should you freeze your credit?
There’s no right time to secure your credit files, but if you have been a victim of identity theft or any fraudulent activities then you don't need any further reasons to freeze your credit account. In a few cases, you can opt for a security alert to keep track of when a third-party accesses your credit account.
When you opt to set a fraud alert on your credit report, you can add a contact number so lenders can call you when they receive an application and verify who is accessing the credit report application. Additionally, you can request free credit reports when you add your first security alert or victim statement. A timely review of your report can help you identify whether you are a victim of online theft and take appropriate action.
It is worth freezing your credit report in a few circumstances:
- If you observe new inquiries or credit accounts on your credit report, with lenders or companies that you don't recognize.
- Your bank or credit union updates you on the fraudulent activities on your credit account
- When you are notified that you or can be a victim of a data breach.
- When you see unexplained bills or collective notices mailed to your address under your other’s name.
Who can access the credit report?
Credit freeze has limitations on credit report inquiries, however, a certain party can have access to your frozen credit account only under certain circumstances. We are listing below a few parties that are allowed to obtain accessibility over your frozen credit reports.
- The credit account owner has the first right to access the reports and view all the activities.
- Utility and phone carrier companies put the amount of security deposit requirement on the equipment.
- Rental agencies and landlords, to screen you as a potential tenant.
- Card issuers and lenders with whom you have current accounts, where you use credit checks in their account management procedure.
- Child support agencies, to check whether you can contribute to child support activities.
- Debt collection companies, when they need to collect payments.
- Insurance companies may include credit scores in their rate-based underwriting process.
- Credit card companies who have pre-screened you earlier for their credit offers.
- US government agents, to execute court orders or warrants
- A few potential employers for background checks where you have authorized previously.
How to unfreeze your credit?
Credit account owners may have to lift the credit reports in certain circumstances to give access to a few institutions of their credit details. As a first step, you need to visit the website and use the account you previously froze. You can opt to unfreeze credit using your phone or postal mail only if you are willing to provide verifying information to the bureau. Except for postal mail, unfreezing your credit occurs within a few minutes of placing a request.
When should you opt to unfreeze your credit report?
While freezing your credit reports protects you from online theft and similar circumstances, there are a few situations where you will need to unfreeze your credit for a specific time. You will be asked to lift your freeze account if you apply for a new line of credit. Whether you have entered into the market for a new car mortgage, rental apartment, or buying a new phone, your credit will be viewed by your lender to assess whether you can make timely payments.
Additionally, you need to unfreeze your credit if you choose to use the buy now, pay later options while online shopping. For instance, Affirm (a famous BNPL platform)guides applicants to unfreeze their credit at all bureaus when they use the buy now payment option.
There are a few perks and downsides for online shoppers with frozen credit. One of the highlight perks is when a credit account is frozen, shoppers need to unfreeze or refreeze the credit which will help them avoid mindless shopping. Though, freezing and unfreezing credit
procedures can be tedious for individuals who frequently rely on BNPL platforms to make varied payments.
Tips on unfreezing credit
Even though the process of unfreezing credit may seem like quite a task, through complete planning you can manage your credit security quite easily.
Unfreeze your credit with one bureau for a single application
If you want to check your credit, then ask the creditor at the bureau. They will allow you access to your credit for once and then unfreeze the credit record at that specific time.
Put a duration limit for a stress-free procedure
Whether you want to check the credit, buy new assets, make payments, or do other activities you can set a specific period to unfreeze your credit, and at the end of this duration it will automatically be frozen.
This alternative will save you from remembering the time and following a hectic process of freezing and unfreezing credit, though make sure you give lenders enough time to access your credit. For instance, applying for a mortgage may take more time than applying for a car loan, so keep these factors in time while setting the duration of lifting your credit.
Unfreeze credit from all bureaus while shopping
If you are applying to lenders for a short time horizon, it is better to unfreeze your credit with all the bureaus at once.
Can I Freeze My Child’s Credit Report?
Parents and guardians can choose to freeze their child’s credit under 16 years. Yes, you heard it right!
When you request to freeze the credit of your child, a credit bureau will create a credit file for your child by assuming he or she does not have one, and then proceed to freeze the credit report. As we discussed above, a few requirements are the personal information for adults to freeze the credit, similarly, you will have to undergo additional paperwork and submit proof to verify the child’s identity that you are standing the credit freeze of your child.
Additionally, you can choose to freeze the credit of your spouse or incapable adult at the three bureaus mentioned above. For this, you need to submit a few documents like birth certificates, Social Security Numbers, and court orders. The details on documentation can be accessed online, or through downloadable credit freeze request forms on all the bureau’s freeze security pages.
Credit Freeze and Fraud Alert
If you have been a victim of credit theft, or observed any unusual actions in your credit account then limit most of the access to your credit reports by placing a request to credit freeze at all the bureaus. This can put limitations on unauthorized credit checks, at the same time can put restrictions on your process of credit applications.
Since credit freeze limits access to your credit reports, until you unfreeze the account, you can explore the option fraud alert. The initial request for a fraud alert stays for 1 year, and the extended alert stays for 7 years. Fraud alerts allow access to lenders to view your credit reports and can verify your identity before they proceed with the application or payment under your name.
Compared to unfreezing and refreezing credit at all the bureaus, fraud alert gives access to lenders for viewing credit scores and reports whenever required, making this option more convenient and hassle-free. With a fraud alert, you can continue your credit procedure without unfreezing the alert.
However, if you want to remove fraud alerts before they expire, you need to contact each bureau individually.
When is the right time to set a Fraud Alert?
- When you are a victim of identity theft with credit or suspect to be a victim.
- If you discovered unexplained transactions or withdrawals under your name.
- Receive notices for the actions you do not recognize from agencies like IRS
Can a credit freeze affect your credit score?
While a credit freeze secures your sensitive data and reports, it has no impact on credit scores or your ability to qualify for loans and more. Though, if you freeze your credit right before applying for a loan, your creditor won’t be able to use your credit score to calculate your qualification as a borrower, which can delay the process of your loan application.
Freezing credit and fraud alerts are all reliable sources to protect your credit history and report identity theft or other fraudulent actions. If you are looking to freeze your credit, make sure you evaluate all the regulations. If you have any doubts you can contact the bureau anytime.
How to freeze your credit online?
Many credit account owners have concerns about how to freeze their credit online. As we discussed above the procedure to freeze credit is simplified, same is with the online journey.
As per the US government, you can place a request online or by phone wherein agencies or bureaus are responsible to freeze your credit within 1 business day. The other option includes through the mail, wherein agencies freeze your credit within an estimation of 3 business days.
While the online process of freezing credit is quick and easy, then what about lifting the credit?
Unfreezing credit is even more simple, If you request through the phone then your credit would be lifted within an hour. And if you choose to request through mail then your credit would be lifted in 3 business days.
Read Also:- Unveiling Max Social Security Tax Cap for 2023
Protect your credit reports and scores from the possibility of varied online thefts. Manage your credit, trade securely, and overall payments with reliable options. What are you waiting for? Contact all 3 bureaus today and learn about freezing your credit before you suspect any unusual activity in your credit report.
Frequently Asked Questions
Placing a request to freeze your credit helps you protect your sensitive data and entire credit history from getting imposed by third-party and helps you safeguard from fraudulent credit action. Additionally, if you need to access your credit report for payment or loan application then you can unfreeze credit with a simple protocol.
The credit fees are made mandatory by federal law and it is free. A credit lock service is offered by a credit bureau with charge fees and it has lessee legal protection than freezing services.