Did you know there were over 650,000 cases of identity theft in 2019? If you suspect that your identity may be compromised, you will want to take some proactive steps to protect your credit.
A great way to protect yourself is by freezing your credit report. Here, we will answer what you need to know about freezing and unfreezing or “thawing” your credit.
- What is freezing credit?
A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, prevents prospective creditors from accessing your credit reports. Creditors typically won't offer you credit if they can't access your credit reporting file. A credit freeze prevents you or others from opening accounts in your name. Freezing your credit can be done in a few minutes, and your credit will remain frozen until you unfreeze or “thaw” it.
- Why would I want to freeze my credit?
You may want to freeze your credit for several different reasons. Here are the most combinations that could prompt you to perform a credit freeze:
• You are informed that your information was compromised in a data breach
• You lose your wallet or purse with your credit cards
• Your bank informs you of suspicious activity on your account
• You have no need to open new credit lines. Keeping your credit open may be unnecessary if you aren’t looking to obtain credit.
- What information will I need to freeze my credit?
In order to freeze your credit, you will need to provide the credit reporting bureau with the following information:
- Previous address, if applicable
- Date of birth
- Social Security number
- How long does it take to freeze my credit once I contact the credit reporting agency?
According to federal law, the credit reporting agency has one business day to put the freeze on your credit.
- Is there a cost to freezing my credit?
There is no cost to freezing your credit report with any of the major credit bureaus.
- How long can my credit stay frozen?
Your credit will stay frozen until you decide to “unfreeze” or “thaw” your credit.
- What does a credit freeze not protect?
A credit freeze will not protect against medical identity theft. You may be able to protect yourself from medical identity theft by protecting your Social Security number.
- What does a credit freeze not impact?
Your credit freeze will not impact your credit score. That is because you will not be able to apply for a loan or a credit card during the freeze.
- Should I freeze the credit of a dead relative?
It is a good idea to freeze the credit of a dead relative to prevent identity and medical identity theft. You may send a copy of the death certificate to the credit reporting agencies to close the accounts.
- How does it affect my credit score?
Freezing your credit will not affect your credit score. Your credit score will remain exactly the same when you unfreeze it.
- Does a credit score stop prescreened credit offers?
No. Freezing your credit score will not stop prescreened credit card offers. If you would like to stop prescreened credit card offers, then you can call 1-888-567-8688 or submit a request through the website: https://www.optoutprescreen.com/. You can opt-out of prescreened offers for five years or permanently.
- Can others see if my credit report is frozen?
Specific entities can still see your credit report while it is frozen. For instance, your existing creditors can even see your credit report along with debt collectors. Also, government agencies can access your credit report if they have an administrative order, subpoena, or search warrant.
- What is the difference between a credit freeze and a fraud alert?
A credit freeze will lock down your credit. A fraud alert will allow creditors to get a copy of your credit report after verifying your identity.
Fraud alerts are usually used to stop people from opening new accounts. However, a fraud alert does not prevent the potential misuse of your current, open accounts.
- What is thawing credit?
Thawing a credit report allows you to unfreeze the account. You may want to thaw your account for the following reasons:
- You want to take out a loan
- You want to apply for a credit card
- You want the potential to raise your credit score
- How to thaw your credit report
When you initially freeze your credit report, you are given a PIN. When you are ready to unfreeze or thaw your credit report, you simply provide the credit reporting bureau your PIN and request to have your credit report unfrozen.
- How long does it take to unfreeze my credit?
The credit reporting agency has to unfreeze your account within one hour when requested online. At most, it could take up to three business days for your credit to be unfrozen if you contact the credit reporting companies by phone.
If you send a written request to have your credit unfrozen, the credit reporting agencies will have up to three business days - from the receipt of your letter - to unfreeze your credit.
- Can you unfreeze your credit on a temporary basis?
Yes. You can unfreeze your credit for as little as a day, a couple of weeks, or more. For instance, if you want to apply for a credit card, you can keep your credit report open for a day while the credit card company checks your credit.
Once the credit card company has checked your credit, you can freeze your account again.
- Can you unfreeze credit for someone else?
There are cases when you can unfreeze credit for someone who is disabled, under the age of 18, or unable to handle their own affairs.
In order to unfreeze credit on behalf of someone else, you will have to provide the proper documentation such as a Power of Attorney for an elderly or disabled person or a Birth Certificate in the case of a parent of a minor child.
- What are the major credit agencies to contact to freeze and thaw my credit?
There are three major American credit rating agencies. Each credit bureau will allow you to freeze your credit via online, phone, or mail:
Knowing how to freeze and thaw your credit the right way
You never know when your credit could be compromised. Therefore, it is a good idea to know how to freeze your credit quickly. By taking the proper precautions, you can ensure that your credit is properly protected.