How to Freeze Your Credit

Contact all three credit bureaus individually to get a freeze, which is the best protection for your credit files.
Bev O'SheaDec 23, 2020
How to Freeze Your Credit

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A credit freeze keeps the sensitive data in your credit files from being accessed without your specific consent. That can protect you from fraudulent credit applications, even if a criminal has key information such as your birthdate and Social Security number.

Key takeaways:

A credit freeze protects you by blocking access to your . When someone applies for credit using your personal information, a lender or card issuer typically checks your credit before making a decision.

If your credit is frozen, the potential creditor cannot see the data required to approve the application.

You can use a PIN or password to when you need it.

Contact each of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — individually to freeze your credit:

You can also freeze your credit report at two lesser-known credit bureaus that may have information about you:

Generally, you need to provide your Social Security number, birthdate and other information confirming your identity.

Once a credit freeze is in place, it secures your credit file until you lift the freeze. You can unfreeze credit temporarily when you want to apply for new credit.

Go to the credit bureau website and use the PIN or password you used to freeze your credit to . You can also unfreeze your credit by phone or postal mail if you can provide the PIN established when the freeze was set up. Unless you use postal mail, unfreezing takes effect within minutes of requesting it.

When you are applying for credit, you can ask the creditor which credit bureau it will use to check your credit and unfreeze only that one. Or, if you’re shopping for a loan and may make several applications in a short period, you may choose to lift the freeze at all three major credit bureaus.

You can choose to unfreeze for a specified time period, after which the freeze automatically resumes.

Parents and guardians can freeze the credit of a child under 16.

If you request a freeze for your child, the credit bureau must create a credit file for the child, then freeze it. In addition to supplying the information required for an adult credit freeze, you’ll also need the child’s birth certificate and proof that you have standing to .

If you’re not actively shopping for a credit card or loan, freezing your credit is wise. Now that freezing credit and unfreezing credit are free, NerdWallet recommends that all consumers protect themselves in this way.

If you think your data may have been compromised, for instance in a data breach, get a credit freeze. It’s especially key if your all-important Social Security number may have been disclosed.

There are a few, potentially:

Both a block access to your credit reports. However, a credit lock is a product offered voluntarily by a credit bureau, which may charge a fee. Equifax’s credit lock is free; TransUnion offers a free lock through its TrueIdentity product or as part of a broader paid subscription; Experian’s lock is available only as part of a paid subscription package.

Credit freeze services are mandated by federal law and are free.

Credit locks may offer convenience — such as being opened and closed with a finger swipe on an app — but they offer fewer legal protections than a freeze.

A credit freeze makes your credit reports inaccessible to most people, with a few exceptions:

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