How to Freeze Your Credit for Free
You already know that your credit score is important. It tells potential lenders and creditors whether you can responsibly manage credit. The higher your number, the better you’ve been about paying bills on time and keeping your debt levels low. And a good credit score can land you better interest rates and approvals on loans.
Your credit score is also something you want to protect, and one tool that could help is a credit “freeze.” A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, can help prevent identity thieves from opening new credit in your name. Thanks to a law that took effect in 2018, freezing (and unfreezing) your credit is now free.
Why would you want to freeze your credit?
Freezing your credit is primarily an act of self-defense. As companies large and small become the victims of data breaches, identity thieves have even more opportunities to wreak havoc with your personal information. If your credit is frozen, thieves shouldn’t be able to open any accounts or apply for new credit in your name. Many people who’ve already been a victim of identity theft freeze their credit to help keep it from happening again.
In the past, freezing and unfreezing your credit with each bureau could cost you money. But a federal law passed in 2018 rendered credit freezes (and thaws) free for all U.S. consumers.
How to place a freeze
To place a full credit freeze, you’ll need to alert each of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Here’s how it works at each bureau:
You can place a security freeze by creating a myEquifax account. Once you’re logged in, you can request a security freeze. When you do this, a PIN will be displayed that you can view and print — you’ll need this to temporarily lift or remove your security freeze via phone or mail. You can place a freeze via phone at 800-349-9960. To place a freeze via mail, download this form and follow the instructions.
To freeze your credit, visit Experian.com/freeze and follow the directions. You can also call Experian at 888-EXPERIAN or submit the request in writing to the address on this page with the requested information. You’ll be provided with a PIN that you’ll need when you decide to unfreeze your credit.
You can either create an account online or download TransUnion’s app, myTransUnion, for your Apple or Android device. You can also call the bureau at 888-909-8872 or request a freeze via mail at this address. You’ll be given a PIN that you’ll need to unfreeze your credit via phone or mail in the future.
How to lift a freeze
Before you apply for any kind of new credit account or loan, you’ll need to lift your credit freeze. Depending on the bureau, you’ll be offered the choice of permanently removing the freeze, lifting it temporarily or briefly lifting it for only one lender. Here’s how it works at each bureau:
You can lift a security freeze via your myEquifax account, or by calling the bureau’s automated line at 800-349-9960. You’ll need the PIN that was generated when you froze the account in order to lift a freeze via phone or mail. To lift a freeze via mail, download this form and follow the instructions.
You can unfreeze your credit at Experian.com/freeze. You can also call 888-EXPERIAN or submit a request via mail or at Experian.com/upload. You’ll need the PIN that was generated when you froze your credit.
You can lift a freeze online or via the TransUnion app, myTransUnion. You can also lift the freeze via phone at 888-909-8872 or by mail.
When your credit is frozen, can anyone access your report?
After you freeze your credit, your credit report will still be accessible to your existing creditors or to any debt collectors who may be acting on their behalf. If there’s ever a court order, administrative order, subpoena or search warrant that requires it, government agencies may be able to access it. Your report shouldn’t be viewable by anyone else.
What happens if you lose the PIN to unfreeze your credit?
All three bureaus have procedures in place to help you after you lose your PIN:
When used responsibly, credit freezes are a useful — and free — tool to help consumers protect themselves from identity theft. You just have to make the time to contact all three credit bureaus. If you’re looking for credit peace of mind, and don’t mind doing the work, a credit freeze may be a positive step for you.