If you’ve been reading about ways to protect yourself against identity theft, you’ve probably heard of a credit freeze. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about freezing your credit report. Keep reading to learn how you can freeze credit for free!
What is a Credit Freeze and What Does it Do?
Essentially, freezing your credit means restricting third-party access to your credit report. Because most creditors need to see your credit report before they approve a new account, freezing your credit will make it harder for identity thieves to open accounts in your name. However, your credit report will still be accessible to existing creditors, debt collectors, and government agencies. By federal law, credit freezing is a free service that does not impact your score.
So what does a credit freeze do for you? When you freeze credit, you are better able to control your assets and debt. However, it may make it more difficult for you to qualify for a new credit card or a loan. Additionally, it can make it difficult for you to access your own FICO score. It does not, however, prevent you from getting your free annual credit report.
How Long Does a Credit Freeze Last?
When you freeze your credit, you can temporarily lift or permanently remove it at any time. However, unfreezing your credit requires you to have a password or PIN. These options can be helpful if you want to open a new account, take out a loan, or get a new credit card since you can’t otherwise do these things without access to your credit report. However, in most states, the credit freeze will expire after seven years.
What is the Difference Between a Credit Freeze and Credit Lock?
You may have heard the terms credit freeze and credit lock used interchangeably. However, there are some differences between the two. The biggest difference is that credit freezes are protected by federal law, while credit locks are not. That being said, a credit freeze is much more secure than a credit lock.
For instance, while unfreezing your credit requires you to call the credit bureau and provide a PIN or password, unlocking your credit can be done anywhere at any time -even from your phone. A credit lock is a good option to use as a preventative measure to guard your credit report from identity theft. However, a credit freeze is a better option if you believe your credit report and personal data have been exposed.
Moreover, by federal law, all three credit bureaus offer free credit freeze. On the other hand, a credit lock is free at TransUnion and Equifax, but Experian requires a monthly fee. Whether you choose to either freeze credit or lock it simply depends on whether or not you need a secure way to protect your personal information through federal law, or you wish to protect your report while still having easy access.
How Do You Freeze Your Credit Report?
To freeze your credit report, you will need to contact each of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You will need to supply your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, and other personal information. After your request has been processed, the bureau will provide you with a PIN number or password unique to you. If you wish to lift the freeze, you will need to have the PIN or password handy, so keep it in a safe place. Make sure you do this for all three bureaus in order to completely freeze credit.
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