Attaching a credit file freeze, also called a security freeze, prevents the credit bureaus from releasing your credit report and score to new lenders and other businesses, which can stop a thief from getting new credit in your name. However, it does not prevent businesses that already have a relationship with you from accessing your report.
How it works
In most cases, financial institutions will need to see your credit report or score when you apply for credit. If your credit file is frozen, they can’t access it and won’t be able to approve a new loan or credit line. Insurance companies, employers, and landlords that you don’t already have a connection with will also be prevented from checking your file. Thus, thieves will have a very hard time opening fraudulent accounts as long as the credit file freeze is in place.
When they work
Credit file freezes are only effective against the type of fraud where a thief tries to open new accounts. If a thief has possession of your existing credit cards or account information, they may be able to use them. (This is why you should notify your financial institutions immediately if you believe you were the victim of identity theft.) Additionally, while it is the norm to check your credit report, some businesses don’t check credit reports at all. These businesses may grant a loan or provide a service in your name if the thief can provide them with your identifying data.
How to add and remove a freeze
To place a freeze on your report, contact each credit bureau. The cost of this service varies by state. Generally, you do not have to pay a fee if you were the victim of identity theft. As proof, you may have to provide the bureaus with a police report or another affidavit.
Once the request is received and processed, the credit bureaus will send you a private personal identification number that you can use to lift the freeze. You will need to lift it before applying for credit or if you want a potential employer, landlord, or other business to check your credit. Depending on your state, there may be a fee to lift the freeze as well as a fee to add it again.
Credit Bureau Contact Information
Heritage Trust is committed to educating our members on fraud and a variety of additional security topics in an effort to protect you and your account information. For more tips on how you can protect yourself and privacy, visit our Member Protection Center.