Identity theft is an increasingly common occurrence in Utah. If you are a victim one important tool you have to protect you from future theft of your accounts is the ability to freeze credit reports. The credit report freeze can be quite effective in preventing the thief from opening new accounts in your name.
What does it mean to freeze your credit report?
Freezing your credit locks it down so lenders cannot access your credit without your permission. A credit freeze helps protect from identity theft and fraud. Placing a freeze on your credit report will not affect your credit scores. One bonus of the credit report freeze is that it stops prequalified junk mail offers.
How do you freeze your credit report?
You place the freeze by contacting each of the three credit reporting agencies; Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Once placed, the freeze prevents creditors from opening new accounts in your name.
Each credit report freeze must be placed separately with each of the three major credit bureaus. There is no way to set up all three credit report freezes at the same time.
All three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion make it easy to freeze your credit report. You can contact them to place the credit report freeze as follows:
Experian Security Credit Report Freeze P.O. Box 9554 Allen, TX 75013 TransUnion Credit Report Freeze P.O. Box 160 Woodlyn, PA 19094 Equifax Security Credit Report Freeze P.O. Box 105788 Atlanta, GA 30348
If you contact the credit bureaus by mail you will need to send the following information:
- Your full name
- Your date of birth
- Your Social Security number
- Complete address history for the last two years
- Government-issued photo identification
- Utility bill, lease, bank statement, or other proof of your address
If you prefer to freeze and unfreeze your credit reports by telephone here are the contact phone numbers for each credit bureau:
Equifax: 888-298-0045 TransUnion: 800-916-8800 Experian: 888-397-3742
Once requested, the credit reporting agencies must place the security freeze within five business days. If you request the freeze online or by phone it will happen immediately instead. The credit bureaus must then send you written confirmation of the freeze within ten business days of placing the request. The confirmation must include a unique personal identification number or password you can use to release your credit information to selected companies. If you issue authorization to a company to access your reports, authorization is limited to a specific party for a specific amount of time.
Does a Credit Report Freeze Cost Anything?
No. All three major credit bureaus now offer the credit report freeze services for free.
Does a Credit Report Freeze Affect your Credit Score?
If you are worried about how a credit freeze affects your credit score, fear not. A credit freeze has no effect on your credit score. It is intended only to prevent identity thieves from establishing new credit in your name. For the same reason, a credit freeze will not prevent identity thieves from accessing your existing credit accounts either.
Free Annual Credit Reports
A credit report freeze doesn’t prevent you from ordering your free annual credit reports. It also does not prevent you from opening a new bank account, applying for a job, renting an apartment, or buying an insurance policy. You might need to temporarily lift the freeze for these types of credit. That is okay as doing so is easy and fast in most cases. Plan ahead however. You don’t want any delays or other issues when applying for these kinds of credit. You also don’t want to be rejected for credit because of the credit report freeze.
How to temporarily unlock a credit report security freeze
If you need to temporary unlock the freeze, no problem. Just go online, call, or write to the credit bureaus using the credit bureau contact information above. If you call or use the online services unlocking the credit report freeze will be immediate. If you call or request by mail the freeze will take a few days to unlock so plan ahead. You may also request a temporary lift for a specific credit grantor or for a specific period of time ranging anywhere from one day to one full year.
Differences between a security freeze and fraud alerts
A security freeze completely locks down or “freezes” your credit. Once in place, creditors may not access your credit to extend new credit. Credit freezes are also specific to individual credit bureaus so you can freeze one and leave another totally open.
Fraud alerts, on the other hand, are merely a cautionary flag to alert lenders they should take special precautions before extending credit in your name. Typically, that involves calling you to verify that you are the actual person requesting the credit. When you set the fraud alert, you give the credit bureaus your telephone number so they know they are calling you rather than an imposter. Finally, when you set a fraud alert with one credit agency it is required by law to contact the other two so a fraud alert spans all three agencies rather than staying with one specific bureau.
The time frames are also different in some circumstances. For example, an initial fraud alert lasts for only 90 days while a security credit report freeze stays in place for seven years. You can place an extended fraud alert however, which will also last for seven years so the time differences are not significant.
Another difference is that anyone can request a freeze of their credit while fraud alerts are only available to consumers who are, or reasonably believe they may become, victims of identity theft.
Credit Report Freeze Considerations
A security freeze is an excellent tool in the fight against identity theft but in some cases you may want to remain cautious before placing a security freeze. For some consumers, the burdens of locking and unlocking the freeze can grow tiresome over time. For example, you may want to open a store credit card at the point of purchase and with a credit report freeze in place might be stopped from doing so. The same is true for other types of credit such as requesting cell phone service or even applying for a job.
Another consideration is the burden of figuring out which credit bureau to unlock for any given situation. In some cases, the credit grantor can tell you in advance which credit bureau to unfreeze but there could be a situation where you would have to unfreeze all three agencies to be sure you the credit grantor gets the access they need to assess your creditworthiness.
Ultimately, the decision will be yours to make. But if you want to prevent identity thieves from opening new lines of credit in your name, a credit or security freeze is one of many tool at your disposal.