Freezing Your Credit
A “credit freeze” is fairly self-explanatory – it prevents national credit bureaus from providing your credit information to a potential lender, which stops them from issuing credit in your name. It’s especially useful if you’re the victim of identity theft, credit fraud, or your personal information is included in a data breach.
Freezing your credit sounds fairly drastic. Other than preventing lenders from receiving your credit information, what else does it do?
- First, it does not affect your credit score. (This is a common concern.)
- In addition, it doesn’t affect your ability to use your existing credit accounts – lines of credit, credit cards, etc.
- It does NOT stop pre-screened credit offers. (In order to “opt out” of these offers, visit https://www.optoutprescreen.com/ or call 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688).
- Creditors will continue to make regular updates to your credit report, reflecting your payments and usage.
- Credit checks related to a job application, insurance underwriting, or apartment rental can still be processed.
- A freeze doesn’t affect your ability to receive a free annual credit report.
- It doesn’t prevent you from applying for new credit, though you’ll have to remove the freeze in order to be considered by the lender.
Overall, a credit freeze is a good option for someone who’s concerned about their credit information and isn’t likely to apply for credit very often. If that doesn’t describe you, a fraud alert might be a better option.
Similar to a credit freeze, a fraud alert is a temporary measure that expires after one or seven years, depending on the kind of alert you request. Instead of blocking access to your credit file to potential lenders, it flags your account and asks them to contact you to verify your identity before processing any credit or loan applications for you. There are three types of fraud alerts:
- Fraud Alert. If you’re worried about identity theft, but haven’t become a victim, a fraud alert prevents unverified access to your credit file for one year.
- Extended Fraud Alert. If you’re a victim of identity theft, an extended fraud alert will protect your file for seven years.
- Active Duty Military Alert. If you’re being deployed, this alert lasts for one year and can be renewed for the length of your deployment. The credit bureaus will also remove you from their marketing lists (for pre-screened credit offers) for two years, unless you ask them not to.
To freeze your credit, contact each credit bureau separately. Typically, when requesting a credit freeze you’ll need to provide your social security number, birth date, a copy of a photo ID, and proof of your address (e.g. a recently postmarked utility bill). You will be given, or asked to provide, a Personal Identification Number (PIN) or password to use when thawing/refreezing your account. After you place the freeze, it will continue until you remove it.
The views, information, or opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Citizens State Bank and its affiliates, and Citizens State Bank is not responsible for and does not verify the accuracy of any information contained in this article or items hyperlinked within. This is for informational purposes and is no way intended to provide legal advice.