How to Freeze Your Credit Report at Each Credit Bureau
With data breaches and identity theft on a nonstop rise, someone gaining access to your credit report is a real concern. Trying to recover from identity theft is no easy task. A credit freeze could help prevent your identity from being stolen.
It’s unfortunate that victims of identity theft are often treated as though they committed a crime. It can take months and even years to get your credit back on track after identity theft.
According to Business Insider, at least 14 retailers were hacked and likely had information stolen since January 2017. Many of them were caused by flaws in payment systems, either online or in stores.
A credit freeze would make your credit report inaccessible to lenders if your identity was stolen.
How a credit freeze works
Credit freezes place a lock on your credit reports. When you freeze your credit report, creditors and lenders can’t pull your credit report or credit score. That means no one, including you, can apply for credit until you unfreeze your credit reports or you provide the credit bureau a password to unlock your credit reports.
While a credit freeze is not guaranteed, it does provide some security between your credit reports and a potential identity thief. Since most banks and lenders require a credit check, an application for credit cards, loans, mortgages, bank accounts and any other account requiring a credit report would likely be denied.
In order to place a credit freeze, you must do so at each credit bureau individually.
The credit freeze does not apply to creditors and lenders with whom you currently have accounts. Existing creditors or debt collectors acting on their behalf can still access your credit reports and scores without you unlocking your credit reports. Plus, certain law enforcement and government agencies can access your credit reports despite a credit freeze in response to a court or administrative order, a subpoena, or a search warrant.
State laws govern credit freezes
All states have enacted credit freeze laws to help identity theft victims combat further damage and most states allow all consumers to freeze their credit. If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, there is no fee to freeze (or unfreeze) your credit report. Some states also waive the fees for seniors over a certain age.
Fees vary widely: from $5 to $20 to freeze, temporarily lift the freeze, remove the freeze, or to replace your PIN (the personal identification number used to freeze or unfreeze your credit report). In some states credit freezes are free.
Does Credit Karma work with a credit freeze
Many consumers use Credit Karma to check their Transunion and Equifax reports as well as Vantage credit scores. If you place a credit freeze on your credit reports with Transunion and Equifax you won’t be able to register for Credit Karma.
A temporary credit freeze life will not allow you to register on Credit Karma’s site. You would have to remove the credit freeze in order to register.
If you’re already registered with Credit Karma, you can add a credit freeze to your Transunion and Equifax credit reports without affecting your Credit Karma account. Credit freezes only block access to Credit Karma during a new registration process.
How to Freeze Your Experian Credit Report
An Experian credit freeze can be done in several ways:
- Online at: Experian Freeze Your Experian Credit Report
- Telephone Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- Mail: Experian Security Freeze
O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
How to Freeze Your Transunion Credit Report
An Transunion credit freeze can be done in several ways:
- Online at: TransUnion Freeze Your TransUnion Credit Report
- Telephone Transunion: 1-888-909-8872
- Mail: TransUnion LLC
O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000
How to Freeze Your Equifax Credit Report
An Equifax credit freeze can be done in several ways:
- Online at: Equifax Freeze Your Equifax Credit Report
- Telephone Equifax: 1-800-685-1111 (NY residents 1-800-349-9960)
- Mail: Equifax Security Freeze
O. Box 105788
Atlanta, Georgia 30348
If you choose to request your Credit Freeze by mail at any of the three credit bureaus, you must provide the following documentation:
- Your full name, including your middle initial any generational suffix (e.g. Jr., II, etc.)
- Complete current address, and previous addresses for the past two years
- Date of birth, month, day, and year
- Social security number
- Proof of identification (e.g. a photocopy of your valid driver’s license, passport, state ID, military ID, or birth certificate)
- Address verification (e.g. utility bill, cell phone bill, pay stub. Do not send a credit cards statement, magazine subscription, voided check, or lease agreement)
- Payment (check, money order, or major credit card)
Unfortunately, there’s no way to freeze all three credit reports at once. You must freeze your credit report at each credit bureau individually.
How to remove a credit freeze?
In some states, a credit freeze will expire after seven years. But the majority of states you will have to remove a credit freeze if you plan to apply for credit. A credit freeze remains in place until you ask the credit bureau to temporarily lift it or remove the credit freeze altogether.
The fee to remove a credit freeze or temporarily lift a credit freeze varies by state. That fee must be paid at each credit bureau where you placed the credit freeze.
To save money if you opt for a temporary lift because you are applying for credit or a job, find out which credit bureau the business will contact for your file. That way you can save some money by lifting the freeze only at that particular credit bureau.