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Your credit report contains essential information about you. In the hands of fraudsters, it can make you vulnerable to identity theft. A credit freeze is one tool to stop your credit report from improper use. The good news is that a credit freeze is free, easy to get, and won’t change your credit score.
That doesn’t mean your score won’t change during a credit freeze. It just means that your choice to put a freeze on your account won’t be a factor in determining that score.
You can get a credit freeze from any credit reporting agency. If you place a freeze on your credit account, the agency will not share your credit information with any third party. Whenever a new lender tries to access your report, they will see a message that says there is a credit freeze on the file.
A credit freeze is your right as a consumer. But there’s no one agency where you can ask to freeze your credit. You must go to each reporting agency individually.
A credit freeze prevents the opening of new credit accounts in your name. It does not stop all identity theft, but it makes it harder. An identity thief may already have your personal information like your address and social security number. A nefarious player may also apply for credit using your credentials, but the business extending the credit won’t be able to access your report and therefore is likely to deny the application.
Many people get a credit freeze when they fear that someone stole their information. Others place one as a preventive measure. It stops you from applying for new credit impulsively when you are trying to keep your spending under control. There’s no charge to freeze your credit or to remove the freeze when you are ready to use your credit again.
Reporting agencies still keep frozen credit reports up-to-date. Your creditors will continue to detail your payment history during the freeze. But third party lenders, financial institutions, potential landlords, and most other people cannot access your credit report or credit score.
There are some exceptions. Some parties can access your credit report even during a freeze.
You can also allow some parties access to your report during a freeze. This might include a potential employer or a specific institution from whom you are requesting new credit.
Contact each credit bureau agency individually about a credit freeze. You can ask for the freeze online or call to speak to an agent.
Most credit freeze requests happen quickly, especially if you speak to a live agent or do the request through an online portal. However, the reporting agency can take up to three days to place or lift a freeze on your credit history. If you want to take care of the freeze quickly, consider calling to talk to a person to make sure your request gets through.
ach credit agency has a process to unfreeze your credit report. It is as easy to reopen the report as it is to place the initial restrictions on access.
You have several options to unfreeze your credit account. It is not an all-or-nothing, “one size fits all solution.” Consider your options and tailor the unfreeze process to your specific needs. Here are some common scenarios:
Each of these options has a different purpose or benefit. If you plan to spend some time looking for a mortgage, you may want to unfreeze your credit report to more than one lender, but only for a couple of months. But if you’re in talks to get a loan from one specific lender, you may want to unfreeze the report for that potential creditor alone. When you’re ready to go back and have your report be more widely available, you might want to consider removing the freeze in its entirety with no end date.
A credit freeze is an excellent way to take control of your credit. Another tool is accessing your credit report and remembering to review it regularly. There are sometimes errors that you can get fixed. Knowing what is in your credit history gives you the power to change it and raise your score.
Here are a few websites to find out what is on your credit report. These offer a free credit score so you know where you stand.
Many people experience surprise when they discover what they can learn from their credit report. These websites offer greater insight into what affects your score. High credit card balances, on-time payments, mortgage experience, and the number of open accounts are just a few potential factors. Having a credit freeze on your account is not a factor that affects your credit score.
A credit freeze has many benefits. It stops fraudsters from opening new accounts in your name. It can be a tool against identity theft. This helps keep your credit health in check, if you fear opening too many accounts on impulse. Thankfully, your credit report stays up-to-date even when a freeze is in place. You can grant permission to those you want to have access to the report. Having a freeze on your credit account does not negatively impact your credit score.