A credit freeze, also called a security freeze, prevents a credit reporting agency from releasing your credit report to others, without affecting your credit score. A credit freeze is perhaps the most effective way of stopping identity thieves from opening new accounts in your name. Placing a credit freeze with each of the three major agencies, Equifax, Transunion, and Experian, offers the most protection. Each freeze remains until you lift or remove it. Under Federal law and Massachusetts law you cannot be charged to place, lift, or remove a credit freeze.
A credit freeze also stops businesses from checking your credit, so you may need to temporarily lift your credit freeze before:
- Applying for any type of loan, mortgage, or credit card
- Applying for insurance
- Switching or starting a new utility service or phone line, including a cell phone
- Applying for a job
- Applying to rent an apartment.
“Credit locks” are not the same as a credit freeze. “Credit locks” vary by credit reporting agency but are generally a private service that you may have to pay a recurring fee to use, or that may be combined with other services, like various paid credit monitoring services. You should read the terms of any service carefully before you sign up. Make sure you understand any charges, which may go up after a free or discounted trial period, and which often renew automatically.
A credit freeze is also different from a “fraud alert.” A fraud alert does not prevent businesses from requesting your credit report, but requires them to take extra steps to verify your identity. It lasts for 90 days unless renewed. There is no charge to put a fraud alert on your credit report.
How to place a credit freeze
To place a credit freeze on your credit report, you may send a written request by regular, certified, or overnight mail at the addresses below. You may also place a credit freeze through each of the consumer reporting agencies’ websites or over the phone, using the contact information below:
Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348-5788
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion Security Freeze
P.O. Box 160
Woodlyn, PA 19094
In order to request a credit freeze, expect to provide some or all of the following information to the credit reporting agency, depending on whether you request the freeze online, by phone, or by mail:
- Your full name (including middle initial as well as Jr., Sr., II, III, etc.)
- Social Security number
- Date of birth
- Addresses where you have lived over the prior five years
- Proof of current address, such as a current utility bill, telephone bill, rental agreement, or deed
- A legible photocopy of a government issued identification card (state driver’s license or ID card, military identification, etc.)
- Social Security card, pay stub, or W2
- If you are a victim of identity theft, a copy of either the police report, investigative report, or complaint to a law enforcement agency concerning identity theft.
You may also request a credit freeze for a minor child or a dependent, even if they do not have a credit report. Information on how to do so is available from the above credit reporting agencies.
The credit agencies must send written confirmation of the credit freeze to you and should provide you with a personal identification number or password that you will use to temporarily lift or remove a credit freeze. It is important you remember this number or password or put it in a safe place, because you may to give it to the agency if you want to lift the credit freeze.
For additional information about credit freezes, please see the FTC’s website.