Finance &
The Consumer

Freeze, ID Thief!

About Security Freeze

Image of a thiefA security freeze is one of the most effective ways to prevent identity theft. Under SB 116, beginning September 1, 2007, 39 states can put a security freeze on their credit files, which means those files cannot be shared with potential creditors.

A security freeze allows consumers to proactively "lock up" their credit information so no one can access it without their permission. This prevents a thief from falsely using someone else's identity to take out a new mortgage, apply for a credit card or get financing.

The freeze is easily lifted if consumers plan to make a major purchase, open a new credit card or take out a loan.

Background Checks - A freeze will prevent an employer from getting your credit report as part of a background check. You have to lift the freeze to allow a complete background check, just as you do to apply for credit. Be sure to request a security freeze lift at least 5 or more days prior to a temporary freeze lift to avoid any complications. The credit bureaus must lift a freeze no later than three business days after receiving your request.

A security freeze will NOT:

  • lower your credit score
  • prevent you from getting your own credit report
  • stop credit card companies from sending you pre-approved credit offers. To stop most pre-approved credit offers, call 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688) or go online to www.optoutprescreen.com. You can choose to opt out for five years or permanently.

Using a Security Freeze

What will It Cost You?

Image of moneyIt costs $3 to place a security freeze on your credit files with a credit bureau, for a total of $9 to freeze your files with all three credit bureaus. For a security freeze to be effective for married couples, both spouses have to freeze their separate credit files. The total cost for a couple is $18.

  • There is no fee for identity theft victims who have filed a police report of identity theft to freeze their files.
  • To have a freeze temporarily lifted also costs $3 per credit bureau. There is no fee to permanently remove a security freeze.

how to Request a Security Freeze

To place a security freeze on your credit files, you must write to each of the three credit bureaus.

  • Provide identifying information including, at a minimum, your name, address and Social Security number.
  • Pay the $3 security freeze fee by check or credit card, unless you are an identity theft victim. If you are a victim, provide a copy of the police report of identity theft.
  • For a security freeze to be effective for married couples, both spouses have to freeze their separate credit files, via separate letters requesting the freeze. The total cost for a couple is $3 x 3 credit bureaus x 2 people = $18.
  • Send separate letters to each of the three credit bureaus. For married couples, both spouses must request to freeze their credit files via separate request letters:

  • Equifax Security Freeze
    P.O. Box 105788
    Atlanta, GA 30348
    (800) 525-6285
    Experian Security Freeze
    P.O. Box 9554
    Allen, TX 75013
    (888) EXPERIAN (397-3742)
    TransUnion Security Freeze
    P.O. Box 6790
    Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
    (800) 680-7289
  • The credit bureaus must place the freeze on your files within five business days of receiving your written request. If you are a victim of identity theft, they must place the freeze within 24 hours of getting the police report and information confirming your identity.
  • Each of the credit bureaus will send you written notice that the freeze is in place within five days of it going into effect. This confirmation will include:
    • a Personal Identification Number (PIN),
    • instructions on how to lift or remove the freeze

How To Temporarily Lift a Security Freeze

To open a new credit account, take out a new loan or allow a background check, consumers need to temporarily lift the security freeze on their credit files. It can be lifted for a specific period of time or for a specific creditor.

  • Contact each of the credit bureaus by phone and use your Personal Identification Number (PIN).
  • Specify whether you want to temporarily lift the freeze for a specific date range or creditor.
  • Pay the $3 lift fee to each credit bureau.

The credit bureaus must lift a freeze no later than three business days after receiving your request.

How To Permanently Remove a Security Freeze

You can permanently remove a security freeze at any time by calling the credit bureaus and using your PIN. There is no fee for permanently removing a security freeze.

The credit bureaus must remove the security freeze within three days.


Who Can Still Access a Frozen Credit File?

When a file is protected by a security freeze, a creditor who requests that file will get a message or a code indicating that the file is frozen. However, when you have a security freeze on your credit file, certain entities can still access it.

  • Your report can still be released to your existing creditors or to collection agencies acting on their behalf. They can use it to review or collect on your account.
  • Other creditors may also use your information to make offers of credit, unless you opt out of receiving such offers.
  • Government agencies may access your report for collecting child support payments or taxes, or for investigating Medicaid fraud. Government agencies may also access it in response to a court or administrative order, a subpoena or a search warrant.

Fraud Alerts

A fraud alert:

  • is a special message that people who suspect they may be identity theft victims can have placed on the report a credit issuer receives when it checks a consumer's credit rating
  • tells the credit issuer there may be fraudulent activity on an account
  • can help protect consumers against identity theft
  • can slow your ability to get new credit, but does not stop you from using existing credit cards or other accounts

A fraud alert is not the same as a security freeze. While a fraud alert may slow down issuing new credit, it does not stop it. A security freeze will stop someone else getting new credit in your name.

Contact Consumer Protection

You can get your questions or concerns about using a security freeze by contacting the Office of Consumer Protection in your state.




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