A credit freeze (also referred to as a security freeze) restricts access to your credit report, making it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts with your information. If you place a freeze on your credit report at one or all 3 credit bureaus, your credit report cannot be used by a lender to open a new account in your name. A freeze may also prevent your information from being released for other account applications (such as requesting a line of credit, opening a bank account, or applying for a credit card). It also limits your flexibility to take advantage of good credit card offers, purchasing a home, and more. Because it can take time to lift a credit freeze, you should plan ahead before applying for credit if you have frozen your credit.
To find information on the steps you should take to freeze your credit with each bureau, visit Equifax Security Freeze & Fraud Alerts, Experian Security Freeze, and Transunion Freeze Support Center online and then provide them with your identity information by mail, online or by phone. For full protection, you should freeze your credit file at each of the 3 major U.S. credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and Trans Union).
Like a credit freeze, a credit lock prevents your credit report from being accessed at the bureau where you locked it. You should establish the lock at all 3 credit bureaus. If you place a lock on your credit report, it may stop you from opening new accounts in your name, but it can be unlocked more quickly than unfreezing your credit. If you plan to apply for credit cards, request a loan, apply for a new job, or purchase a car, a credit lock may be a better fit for you than a credit freeze. Visit Experian CreditLock, Transunion Freeze Support Center, and Equifax Security Freeze & Fraud Alerts for details on how to lock your credit at each of the credit bureaus.
A fraud alert is a temporary alert on your credit report that notifies potential creditors or lenders that you may be a victim of identity theft. You can request a fraud alert from any of the credit bureaus; the alert will automatically be set at the other two credit bureaus. Each credit bureau provides information on how to place a fraud alert on your record at their websites at Experian Fraud alert, TransUnion Security Freeze and Equifax Security Freeze & Fraud Alerts.
Freezes, locks and fraud alerts are designed to help you protect your personal information from identity theft and fraudulent account openings. While they are similar, each has unique features. Fraud alerts warn creditors reviewing your credit report that you may have recently experienced identity theft. The initial fraud alert remains active for 90 days. Credit locks and freezes prevent identity thieves from opening accounts in your name. They also may prevent you from opening an account with a lender. Credit locks are convenient because you can more quickly
unlock access to your credit report; however, each credit bureau offers different protection for credit locks versus credit freezes. To better understand what is right for you, visit the credit bureau websites: Experian Fraud alert, TransUnion Security Freeze and Equifax Security Freeze & Fraud Alerts
You'll want to use the personal identification number (PIN) you received when freezing your credit report to unfreeze, temporarily lift or permanently remove a freeze on your credit report. If you're planning to apply for credit, do it a few days in advance. Some states may require a fee to temporarily or permanently remove the freeze from your credit report. If you're interested in knowing what the fees are, TransUnion provides a list of fees for each state
Find out how to remove a freeze from your credit report from each of the 3 credit bureaus by using these resources: Transunion Freeze Support Center, Equifax Security & Fraud Alerts, and Experian Security Freeze
A freeze, lock or fraud alert does not affect your credit score.
Here are more resources on credit lock, freeze, and alerts from Citi:
For additional information visit these credit bureau resources:
- Equifax Security Freeze & Fraud Alerts
- Experian CreditLock
- Experian Security Freeze
- Transunion Freeze Support Center