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Freezing credit protects against identity theft and prevents new credit access until unfrozen.
Your credit score is one of the most important financial numbers you have. Credit is required to do things like get a mortgage, qualify for the best rewards credit cards, and obtain a suitable auto loan. And having a good credit score helps you qualify for lower interest rates on any of these loans, which could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in interest.
Your credit score impacts many financial aspects of your life. If someone were to use your identity to apply for new credit and fail to pay the bills, it could cause your credit score to plummet. It would have a major and lasting impact on you and your money. So how can you protect yourself from this?
One way to protect your credit score is by freezing your credit. Freezing your credit is an easy and free option that you can even take advantage of for your kids. However, it does come with a downside. You won’t be able to apply for new credit without taking steps to first unfreeze it.
What Is a Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze blocks access to your credit reports. This can protect your credit profile from criminals looking to conduct fraudulent activity under your name. Identity theft is a growing risk as more people are becoming victimized by scammers opening credit cards or taking out loans in their name.
With a credit freeze, no one can open new accounts in your name. This also means that creditors can’t perform an official credit check or see your credit profile to approve you for anything either. Sometimes, creditors peek at your credit profile to provide you with valid offers or preapprove you for a loan. With a credit freeze, you probably won’t receive many of these offers.
Only a few companies can see your credit profile during a credit freeze including:
- Companies you currently have accounts with
- Specific government entities (such as child support agencies)
- Credit monitoring companies you’ve hired to keep an eye on your profile
Freezing your credit does not hurt or impact your score, and you can continue using your existing credit cards and making payments on your loans. A credit freeze doesn’t stop you from using any existing credit you have and creditors will continue to report activity to the credit bureaus.
How to Freeze Your Credit
Freezing your credit must be done with each of the three major credit bureaus. You’ll need to contact each credit bureau directly and request a credit freeze. Freezing your credit online is completely safe, and free of charge, so long as you’re using the right resource. Each credit bureau allows you to freeze your credit and manage the freeze on its secure official website. Here are some ways to freeze your credit with each credit bureau.
Requesting a credit freeze with Equifax
You can request a credit freeze with Equifax by going to their website and submitting an online form. Or, call (888) 298-0045 to request a freeze by phone. You’ll be required to verify your identity and will have the option to receive a one-time PIN via text message or answer a security question.
Requesting a credit freeze with Experian
Experian allows you to add a credit security freeze online by submitting a form. You will also be provided with a PIN (Personal Identification Number) which is required to remove the freeze from your credit report. If you prefer to talk to someone on the phone, call Experian’s customer service line at (888) 397-3742.
Requesting a credit freeze with TransUnion
You can go to TransUnion’s website to freeze or unfreeze your credit. You’ll need to create an account online if you don’t already have one. Then, just enter your information and verify your identity to start the credit freeze. To speak to a live agent, you can call TransUnion at (800) 916-8800.
To successfully request and receive a credit freeze, you’ll need to submit some important information that verifies your identity. Each credit bureau will ask for your Social Security number, address, and date of birth. You may also need to submit additional information like a copy of your passport or driver’s license, a utility bill to verify your address or even a bank statement.
Difference Between Freezing and Locking Your Credit
Credit locks and credit freezes can both block unwanted parties from accessing and using your credit against your wishes. However, credit locks can instantly turn on and off access to your credit while a credit freeze may require up to 24 hours to be activated.
A credit freeze also needs to be requested through one or all of the major credit bureaus and can be done for free. Meanwhile, a credit lock may be offered through a paid credit monitoring service. Locking your credit must also be done through each of the major credit bureaus individually and you’ll need to verify your identity.
While both a credit freeze and credit lock offer the same protections, the main difference is that credit locks tend to go into effect quicker and may cost money while requesting a credit freeze through the credit bureau is always free.
Can I Freeze My Child’s Credit?
Children ages 18 and younger usually haven’t utilized any lines of credit, and therefore don’t have a credit report. That flawless credit history provides identity theft criminals with the perfect opportunity to apply (and likely get approved) for credit in a minor’s name. As a result, children can be victims of identity theft too. If you want to protect your child’s credit score until they are older, you can explore the process of freezing their credit.
Freezing your child’s credit is a similar process but there are a few extra steps. You can request a credit freeze through each of the three major credit bureaus. However, you may need to call them or mail documents if you are unable to upload them online. For example, Equifax has a Minor Freeze Request form that you can print out and complete.
You’ll need to verify your identity as a parent or legal guardian, and this often requires supplying a birth certificate or court order, as well as a driver’s license, and Social Security card for both you and your child.
In most cases, you can request how long you wish to freeze your child’s credit (e.g. until they are 16 years old) to simplify the process of unfreezing their credit when you’d like for them to be able to use it.
Here are the mailing addresses as well as the documents you’ll need for each credit bureau when you request a minor credit freeze.
Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348
You’ll need to submit a copy of one of the following:
- Your driver’s license or government-issued ID
- Your Social Security card
- Your Birth certificate
A copy of one of the following:
- Your child’s birth certificate
- A court order
- A lawfully executed and valid power of attorney
- A foster care certification
And a copy of both of the following:
- Your child’s Social Security card
- Your child’s birth certificate
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
(Overnight shipping address)
701 Experian Parkway
Allen, TX 75013
You’ll need to provide:
- The full name for both you and your child
- Social Security numbers for both you and your child
- Complete addresses for the past two years
- Date of Birth for both you and your child
- One copy of government-issued ID (driver’s license, state ID card, etc.)
- One copy of a utility bill, bank, or insurance statement
As well as:
- A copy of your child’s birth certificate
- A copy of your child’s Social Security card
- If you are a guardian, you’ll also need to submit a copy of the court document naming you as such, and other applicable court appointed documents
P.O. Box 380
Woodlyn, PA 19094
You’ll need to submit:
- A written request to place a “protected consumer freeze” on your child’s file
A copy of one of the following:
- A court order
- Lawfully executed and valid power of attorney
- Government document showing proof of parentage, such as your child’s birth certificate
- A written document certifying your child’s foster care jurisdiction
And copies of following for both you and your child:
- Birth certificates
- Social Security cards
- Government-issued IDs
How to Thaw or Unfreeze Your Credit
If you decide to go through with a credit freeze, there will likely be a time when you need to unfreeze your credit, such as if you’re shopping around for a new car or home. If you want to apply for a new loan, get a new credit card, or do anything that involves applying to open a new account, companies will need to run your credit. New companies that you don’t already have accounts with can’t do this if you have an active credit freeze in place.
To unfreeze your credit, you’ll need to make a request with each credit bureau. You can do this online similar to the way you were able to request the freeze. Or, you can call each bureau. If you were able to create an online account with the credit bureau and request a freeze that way, you can usually just manage your account and request to unfreeze your credit. It can take up to an hour for your credit to unfreeze.
Is Freezing Your Credit a Good Idea?
Freezing your credit could be a good idea if you’re worried about becoming a victim of identity theft due to a data breach. Or, you may consider it just to add an extra layer of security to your credit report. If someone gets ahold of your Social Security number, they can try to open credit accounts in your name and damage your credit file.
On the flip side, freezing your credit means you won’t be able to apply for credit with a new creditor unless you unfreeze it through each of the major credit reporting agencies. A credit freeze may be ideal for someone who has no plans to obtain new credit in the near future. It’s free and won’t impact your existing credit history.