Consumers may place “credit freezes” or “security freezes” on their credit reports with consumer reporting agencies. A freeze restricts access to the credit report, which in turn makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts with businesses that check credit history. By law, placing or lifting a freeze with a consumer reporting agency is free.
How does a consumer request a freeze?
You must contact each consumer reporting agency with which you want to place or lift a freeze. Placing or lifting a freeze with one agency will not necessarily place or lift a freeze at any other agency.
Information about placing or lifting freezes with each of the three largest consumer reporting agencies can be found at:
Consumers can also place a credit freeze with the National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange (NCTUE), which is a consumer reporting agency used by many telecom companies and utilities to check credit history before opening new accounts. Information about placing a freeze with the NCTUE can be found at www.nctue.com/Consumers.
How long does a security freeze last?
A security freeze remains in place unless and until you choose to lift it.
Does a credit freeze affect my credit score?
No. A credit freeze does not affect your credit score.
A credit freeze also does not:
- prevent you from getting your free annual credit report;
- keep you from opening a new account, applying for a job, renting an apartment, or buying insurance (but, if you’re doing any of these, you’ll need to lift the freeze temporarily, either for a specific time or for a specific party); or
- prevent you (or an identity thief) from making charges to your existing accounts (which means that you still need to monitor all financial statements for fraudulent transactions).
Is a “credit freeze” the same thing as a “fraud alert”?
Like a credit freeze, a fraud alert is a free tool to help protect your credit. However, unlike a credit freeze, a fraud alert will not prevent lenders and other businesses from accessing your credit history.
Instead, a fraud alert indicates to lenders and other businesses viewing a credit report that there may be fraud involved in the account. Those businesses may then contact the consumer to ask about a new account or credit request before approving a transaction.
Three types of fraud alerts are available:
- Fraud Alert. If you’re concerned about identity theft, but haven’t yet become a victim, this fraud alert will protect your credit from unverified access for one year. You may want to place a fraud alert on your file if your wallet, Social Security card, or other personal or financial account information is lost or stolen.
- Extended Fraud Alert. For victims of identity theft, an extended fraud alert will protect your credit for seven years.
- Active Duty Military Alert. For those in the military who want to protect their credit while deployed, this fraud alert lasts for one year and can be renewed for the length of deployment. The consumer reporting agencies will also take you off their marketing lists for pre-screened credit card offers for two years, unless you ask them not to do so.
To place a fraud alert on your credit reports, contact one of the three largest consumer reporting agencies. The agency you contact must tell the other agencies, and all three will place an alert on their versions of your report. This is different from placing or lifting a credit freeze, which requires that you contact each agency individually.