How to Place a Security Freeze on Your Credit File

Placing a security freeze on your credit file is an easy way to prevent identity thieves from opening new lines of credit in your name.
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Place a security freeze on your creditPlace a security freeze on your credit report

Identity theft can be a devastating and demoralizing problem that has far-reaching consequences and can be difficult to repair. Unfortunately, identity theft cases continue to increase. If you have been a victim of identity theft, believe you have been a victim, or want to increase the security of your credit history, then you can place a security freeze on your credit file with something called a credit freeze.

Why Freeze Your Credit?

Place a security freeze on your credit
Place a security freeze on your credit report

A credit freeze is a process of denying access to your credit reports. This is an effective method of preventing identity theft by blocking identity thieves from opening new lines of credit because once you institute the credit freeze, no one, not even you, can open a new line of credit without jumping through hoops.

In fact, lenders and insurers can’t even access your credit history without you giving them explicit permission, which involves sending them a personal identification number which is good for a limited time. Otherwise, no one can access your credit profile until you lift the credit freeze.

As you can see there are some pros and cons to this, which will explore further. But for now, the main benefit is locking down your credit profile to prevent unauthorized use. The downside, however, is that you need to jump through hoops if you want to open a new line of credit, apply for a loan, or just want to check your credit report.

How to Request a Security Freeze on Your Credit Report

Freezing your credit is actually a simple process. All you need to do is contact the credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) and request they freeze your credit report. You will need to include your identifying information, including a copy of your photo ID, your SSN, and your address. There may or may not be an associated fee, depending on why you are requesting the credit freeze.

If you have been a recent victim of identity theft, or if you have been exposed to a security breach, you should be able to place a security freeze at no charge. Otherwise, there may be a $10 administration fee. After the credit bureau approves your credit freeze, you will receive a PIN that will allow you temporary access to unfreeze your report, if you need to apply for a loan.

When You Should Freeze Your Credit File

The following reasons are a few examples when it may be a good idea to freeze your credit:

  • If you have been, or suspect you have been a victim of identity theft.
  • You have lost your wallet or purse
  • You have been a victim of fraud (stolen checks, forged signatures, etc.)
  • Your information was stolen in a security breach (for example, if your social security number, personal identification, credit card information, or other information was lost or stolen from a third party computer system)
  • You want an added layer of security between your finances and the rest of the world

Unfreezing Your Credit

Once you are ready to lift the security freeze on your credit profile, all you need to do is contact the credit bureaus with the PIN they provided you with. Keep in mind that it may take up to a few days, so you probably wouldn’t be able to apply for a store credit card at the last minute (and that is a good thing, as store credit cards are rarely a good deal!).

You may or may not have to pay to lift the credit freeze from your credit profile. If you were not charged to place the initial credit freeze because of an identity theft experience or related security breach, then you probably won’t have to pay to remove the freeze. If you are doing this purely as an added layer of security, you may have to pay a small fee.

What to Look Out For With a Credit Freeze

Keep in mind that this won’t repair or fix your credit score, and it won’t do anything to prevent further use of any lines of credit which have already been created. All a credit freeze does is prevent access to your credit report, which prevents new lines of credit from being opened. If you have been a victim of identity theft, then you should immediately report it to the police and your credit issuers, and immediately close the affected lines of credit to prevent further damage.

Bottom line: A credit freeze is an easy way to secure your credit profile against identity thieves. It is either free, or low-cost, and highly effective against allowing new lines of credit from being opened. The only downside is that it can be a hassle to unfreeze your credit report if you need access. but that is a small price to pay for added security and peace of mind.

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of The Military Wallet. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

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    • Ryan Guina says

      Brent, the process is easy – just contact the credit bureau with your PIN number and ask them to either temporarily or permanently unfreeze your credit file. Keep in mind it’s not always instantaneous, so it is a good idea to plan in advance if you need to unfreeze your credit report.

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