What is a Security Freeze?

3/15/2018

A security freeze can be a helpful tool when trying to protect your credit from new account inquiries, but is it enough to protect your identity? With the U.S. experiencing multiple record-breaking data breaches in 2017, it's important to know what a security freeze can or can't do for you. 

What is a security freeze?

A security or credit freeze is a way to prevent the credit bureaus from sharing your credit report to new creditors without your explicit consent.

Why would I want to place a security freeze on my credit report?

A security freeze is one of the best ways to help prevent a thief from opening a new credit account, because creditors require a review of your credit report before they can approve a new account (e.g. credit card, mortgage loan, or auto loan) in your name. If the creditor can’t review the report, no new account will be opened.

Why would I not want to place a security freeze on my credit report?

When you use a security freeze to lock your credit report, it can make the process of shopping for a loan or a credit card difficult.  If you’re thinking of opening a new loan soon, a security freeze may not be for you.

Unless you are already a victim of identity theft, the credit bureaus generally charge a fee to freeze or unfreeze your credit report.  These fees may vary by state, but range anywhere from $3 to $20 per transaction.  Note that each of the three credit bureaus have their own process for locking and unlocking credit reports.  As a result, you have to pay this fee to each of the bureaus every time you place or remove a freeze.  These fees can add up quickly.

Does a security freeze affect my credit score?

No.  A security freeze has no impact on your credit score.

Does a security freeze prevent everyone from seeing my credit report?

No, your report can be released to your existing creditors or to debt collectors acting on their behalf.  In certain situations, government agencies will also still have access to your report.

What does a security freeze not protect you from?

While a security freeze helps prevent new account openings, it cannot prevent all identity theft.  Even with a security freeze you’re still susceptible to take over of existing accounts, healthcare fraud, medical identity theft, and criminal identity theft to name a few.

How do I place a security freeze?

The process to place a security freeze varies by bureau. You will need to individually place a credit freeze at each of the three bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.  There are three ways to place a freeze, writing, phone, or online. Here is the contact information for the three major bureaus:

Equifax

Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, Georgia 30348
By phone call the automated line at 1-800-685-1111
(NY residents please call 1-800-349-9960)
Online filing available here

Experian

PO Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
Online filing available here.

TransUnion

Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
By phone: 1-888-909-8872
Online filing available here.

Protecting your identity is about more than placing a security freeze. With a full-fledge identity theft protection solution, you can monitor for possible misuse of your credit information and your personal data through online "black market" monitoring, credit monitoring, risks assessments and so much more. Learn more about how Identity Guard can help you today!

 

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New Law about Free Credit Freezes

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