How to freeze your credit (and how does it work?)

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If you received a notification of an attempt to open accounts in your name, what should you do?

One of the first solutions you might think of is to freeze your credit.

Freezing your credit can indeed help deter identity thieves, but there are a few things to consider before doing it. Not understanding these can give a false sense of security or affect your financial decisions.

We've checked reputable finance resources online to gather the best tips on freezing your credit. Through our research, you’ll know the top mistake to avoid when freezing your credit.

Keep reading and learn the crucial tips on staying safe against identity theft.

How to freeze your credit?

A credit freeze protects you by preventing prospective creditors from accessing your account. So when a scammer applies for a loan or card under your name, lenders won’t approve the request because they can’t check your credit report.

We’ll tell you how to place a credit freeze on the three major credit bureaus.

Exp1erian credit freeze

Online

You can freeze your credit online, but first, you must create an Experian account. Here’s how to sign up:

  1. Go to the official website, then choose “Security Freeze” under “Credit Support.”
  2. Click “Create a free account.”
  3. Provide your full name and current address.
  4. Type your email address, password, and the reason you want to create an account.
  5. Give your Social Security Number (SSN) and date of birth for verification.

After signing up, you can manage your Experian credit freeze.

Phone

Aside from online requests, you can freeze your credit report on Experian by calling 888-397-3742.

Mail

You can also write a request and send it to Experian Security Freeze (details below). Your letter should include:

Experian Security Freeze

📮 P.O. Box 9554

📍 Allen, TX 75013

  • Full name, including middle initial
  • Addresses for the past two years
  • Date of birth
  • SSN

Aside from these personal details, you should also attach a copy of:

  • A government-issued ID card, such as a driver’s license
  • A utility bill, bank statement, or a similar document

Equifax credit freeze

Online

Like Experian, Equifax allows you to freeze your credit online if you have an account with them.

  1. Go to the website, then click “Go to My Personal Credit.”
  2. Scroll down to see “Place or manage a freeze.”
  3. On the next page, select “Place a Freeze.”

If you don’t have an account yet, you’ll be redirected to the registration page, where you need to provide your:

  • Full name
  • Birthdate
  • Mobile number
  • Current address
  • SSN or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)

Before requesting a credit freeze, you must also verify and confirm your online account.

Phone

You can also call (888) 298-0045 to place a security freeze.

Mail

If you want to place a security freeze by mail, Equifax requires you to fill out and send this form to the indicated address:

Equifax Information Services LLC

📮 P.O. Box 105788

📍 Atlanta, GA 30348-5788

Equifax accepts the following proof of identity:

  • Social Security Card
  • Pay stub with SSN
  • W2 or 1099 form

The agency also provides a list of documents you can submit to prove your address:

  • Driver's license or state identification card
  • Rental lease agreement/house deed
  • Pay stub with address
  • Utility or phone bill

Transunion credit freeze

Online

Transunion also allows you to freeze your credit report conveniently.

  1. Go to the website, then select “Freeze Credit Report” under “Resources.”
  2. On the next page, click “Add a freeze.”
  3. Transunion will ask you to sign up if you’re not logged in.

You need to give the following details to register on Transunion:

  • Full name
  • Complete address
  • Email address
  • Mobile number
  • Birthdate
  • Last four digits of your SSN

The agency will also verify your identity before you can place a security freeze.

Phone

Contact 888-909-8872 to request a credit freeze on your Transunion file.

Mail

You can also send a request with your full name, address, and SSN to:

TransUnion

📮 P.O. Box 160

📍 Woodlyn, PA 19094

But when you place a security freeze by mail or phone, you need to choose a 6-digit PIN that you didn’t previously use in any of your accounts.

As you might notice, the three credit reporting agencies offer online services, but is it safe to freeze your credit online?

Yes, but make sure to visit their legitimate websites. Refrain from going to these sites through unsolicited emails and text messages.

We also recommend typing the URLs on your browser’s address bar to avoid fake and phishing websites.

Will a credit freeze protect you from identity theft?

Although it can prevent identity thieves from opening new accounts under your name, you shouldn’t be complacent regarding your existing accounts.

We found out that scammers may still use your existing accounts to carry out health care or tax refund scams involving your Social Security number. They may also make fraudulent purchases using your credit card if they have access to it.

So you still need to monitor your monthly financial statements for suspicious transactions.

Who can access your frozen credit report?

You can check your credit file even if it’s frozen. You only need to request a credit report without any additional steps.

Still, lenders and creditors can’t access your file, but here are some exceptions:

  • Credit bureaus, such as Equifax, Experian, and Transunion
  • Government agencies and courts, in certain circumstances
  • Companies and collecting agencies where you have current accounts
  • Companies that require verification to investigate or prevent fraud
  • Companies that provide a copy of your credit report upon your request

How and when to unfreeze your credit?

Depending on where you placed a security freeze, you can unfreeze your credit by directly contacting the three credit bureaus.

Simply visit their website to manage your credit, call them on the numbers we showed earlier, or send a physical mail to their business addresses.

Take note of the PIN you chose when you placed a security freeze because the credit bureaus will ask for it.

You should unfreeze it when:

  • You want to apply for a loan
  • You need to rent an apartment
  • You want to buy a house or other properties
  • You want to buy a new phone on an installment basis
  • You need to apply for a job

Pros and cons of a security freeze

A credit freeze helps protect yourself from scammers, but it also has disadvantages.

PROS

  • The federal government lets you freeze your credit for free and place a free security freeze for children.
  • It won’t affect your credit score or hinder you from using your existing credit accounts.
  • It prevents scammers from opening fraudulent accounts under your name.
  • It gives you peace of mind because fraudsters can’t use your identity to apply for loans or buy properties.
  • The three credit bureaus allow you to freeze and unfreeze your credit report online.

CONS

  • It won’t protect you from credit fraud against your existing accounts. For example, if hackers know your card information, they can make fraudulent purchases even though you placed a security freeze.
  • You need to unfreeze your report every time a credible company or lender requires access to it.
  • You may need to provide your PIN, and it would be difficult to unfreeze your credit if you forgot the security code.

There are several benefits to freezing your credit, but there are also downsides, which mostly deal with the inconvenience. Overall, it’s a great way to protect your credit.

Credit freeze vs. credit lock vs. fraud alert

You can take these actions when you suspect identity theft, but they have distinct features.

Credit freeze
It prevents other people from accessing your report and opening new accounts under your name. Fortunately, it’s free to place a security freeze.
Credit lock
A credit lock works like a security freeze. But what’s the major downside of locking your credit? You need to pay for a subscription, so you can lock and unlock your report online or through an app.
Fraud alert
It informs creditors that you may be a victim of fraud. As a result, scammers will have difficulty using your identity to purchase properties or open new accounts.

You can opt for a fraud alert if you don’t want the hassle of freezing and unfreezing or locking and unlocking your credit when you want to open new accounts.

What are other ways to protect your credit from ID theft?

Aside from freezing your credit on the three credit bureaus, you can also do the following to safeguard your information.

  • Don’t give your SSN to strangers, even to people who pretend to be government employees.
  • Shred old bank and credit card statements before throwing them away.
  • Think twice before clicking links from unsolicited emails because scammers can phish your financial data through such URLs.
  • Monitor your credit report for suspicious accounts and review financial and medical statements regularly.

Place security freeze easily and for free

Take advantage of the free credit freeze offered by Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. They also have a straightforward process, so you can easily protect your credit.

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