Credit Freeze and Security Freeze
How Credit/Security Freezes Work to Protect your Credit History
A credit freeze or security freeze is one of the most effective ways to prevent identity theft. By putting a security freeze on your credit history you can protect your credit history from being poached and your identity being stolen.
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.
A credit freeze or 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.
Credit/Security Freezes and Background Checks
A credit freeze will prevent an employer from getting your credit report as part of a background check. You have to lift the credit freeze to allow a complete background check, just as you do to apply for credit.
Credit/Security Freeze and Cost
It costs between $0 (depending on your age and the state in which you live) to around $10 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.
(credit/security freezes are FREE FOR SENIORS IN GEORGIA)
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 around $3 per credit bureau. There is no fee to permanently remove a security freeze.
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 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 STATE COST x 3 credit bureaus x 2 people = FEE. GEORGIA COST: $3 per credit file per credit reporting bureaus. FREE FOR SENIORS
• 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
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
• 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: Personal Identification Number (PIN) and instructions on how to lift or remove the freeze
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.
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.