What is a security freeze on my credit file? 

A security freeze on your credit file prevents creditors, employers and insurance companies from obtaining your credit file.  The security freeze protects consumers’ privacy and helps to ensure new credit accounts are not opened in their name and without their knowledge.  Identity theft victims may place a security freeze on their credit file to prevent new accounts from being opened by an impostor.

How does a security freeze work?

Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that allow a consumer to “freeze” their credit file.  Alabama and Michigan are the only two states that do not have a security freeze law.  The state freeze laws are designed to generally prevent credit, loans, and services from being approved in a consumer’s name without consent. A security freeze on a credit file will prevent a potential creditor from receiving a credit report when a request is made to a credit bureau. Credit freeze laws vary by state and information about what rights consumers have can be obtained from state or local consumer protection agencies, as well as the state attorney general. Generally, security freezes do not apply to collections agencies or any person or entity consumers have existing accounts with, who requests information to review or collect on that account.

How do I place a security freeze on my credit report?

To place a security freeze on a credit report, consumers have to ask for it by contacting the big 3 nationwide consumer reporting agencies Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.  Some state laws require written requests, while others allow requests to be made by telephone, e-mail or other methods approved by the credit reporting agencies. After a request is complete, consumers are provided a personal identification number or password.  The consumer may request the security freeze to be lifted from the credit file using the PIN or password.  To authorize release of credit information, consumers typically have to contact the bureau and provide password, proper identity, information regarding the parties to whom the report is being released, and a possible fee payment.

The consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) must timely lift the freeze upon request.  The timeliness varies from state to state for the CRAs to take the requested action, but may be as short as 15 minutes during normal business hours. If a consumer is trying to get new credit, the consumer should lift the freeze before applying for new credit.  Otherwise, the potential may not receive a credit report and the consumer will probably be turned down for credit without the credit report.

If you are a victim of identity theft, and you are having difficulty getting credit reports errors corrected by consumer reporting agencies, contact us for a free case review at 1-800-263-9091.