Placing a Security Freeze on Your Credit File
Last Updated: March 17, 2017
A security freeze, sometimes known as a credit freeze, allows individuals the ability to control the release of their credit information to lenders or anyone trying to access their credit information. Consumers have the right, by law, to freeze, or lock the data the big three credit reporting agencies have on them. Thus, not allowing the credit bureaus to release any information until that person gives them permission to do so.
Why Would You Need a Security Freeze?
The most common reason to do a security freeze on your credit information is because of identity theft. Placing a freeze on your credit is the most effective way to prevent financial identity theft, because having a freeze stops the issuing of new credit.
Each year, 15 percent of ID theft cases are cases of new account origination - meaning - a criminal opens credit in another person's name. Putting a freeze on your credit, stops the thief dead in his tracks because he can not open up any more lines of credit. Hence, credit freezing should reduce the risk that loans or credit cards will be issued fraudulently.
Disadvantages to Freezing Your Credit
Credit freezes do have some disadvantages, such as creating potential difficulties or delays when applying for a loan. Lenders require access to the borrower's credit report before issuing a loan in the borrower's name. If lenders cannot see the borrower's credit report, it is unlikely the lender will issue a loan.
If you are actively applying for credit, understand that the procedures involved in lifting a security freeze may slow your own application for credit. Plan ahead and lift a freeze, either completely if you are shopping around, or specifically for a certain creditor, a few days before actually applying for new credit. This way you will not encounter any unnecessary delays in getting your loan approved.
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How to Request a Security Freeze
In order to effectively freeze access to your credit files, you must contact EACH OF THE THREE major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, separately and request that a freeze be placed on your credit report. Once you make the request, the credit bureau must:
- comply with your request within five business days;
- send written confirmation of the freeze; and
- include a personal identification number (PIN) or password in the written confirmation sent to you.
The security freeze will remain in place until you request that the freeze be removed, either temporarily or permanently. You must contact EACH bureau separately to remove the freeze and they must remove the freeze no later than three business days after receiving the request from you.
Each state has it's own list of information required to submit the freeze and every state charges it's own fee to do so. Here are the links to each bureaus' site where the information on submitting a credit freeze can be found: