Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud.
In the credit origination process, access to a credit report is critical for a lender to make a risk assessment. Because a credit freeze effectively stops access to the credit report, it places a block in the process of issuing credit.
Lenders typically require access to the borrower’s credit report before issuing a loan in the borrower’s name. If lenders cannot see the borrower’s credit report, it is unlikely the lender will issue a loan in the borrower’s name.
A credit freeze can reduce the risk that loans or credit cards will be issued fraudulently. It prevents lenders and others from accessing your credit reports entirely, which will prevent them from extending credit.
The credit freeze is also known by other names, including credit report lock down, credit lock and most recently security freeze. It allows you to control how a credit bureau (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) is able to use his or her data.
The credit freeze locks the data at the consumer reporting agency until an individual gives permission for the release of the data. In late 2007, all three of the major credit bureaus (following TransUnion’s lead) announced that they would let consumers freeze their credit reports, regardless of the state of residency. The credit bureaus added the ability to set up a credit freeze online.
Because of more stringent security features a freeze must be created with each of the three major credit reporting companies. The freeze remains on your credit file until you remove it or choose to lift it temporarily when applying for credit or credit-dependent services.
Individuals who freeze their credit reports must therefore unfreeze their reports before they wish to apply for credit themselves.
When you to freeze your credit reports you will use a personal identification number (PIN) to temporarily unfreeze your credit so that legitimate applications for credit and services can be processed.
In California a credit freeze is free to identity theft victims who have a police report of identity theft.
If you are not an identity theft victim and you are under 65 years of age, it will cost you $10 to place a freeze with each of the three credit bureaus. That is a total of $30 to freeze your files. If you are not an identity theft victim and you are 65 years of age or older, it will cost you $5 to place a freeze with each of the three credit bureaus. That is a total of $15 to freeze your files.
You should not freeze your credit if you need to access credit reports frequently for your job or if you are creating new accounts with lenders regularly.
The following information tells you how to approach each of the three credit reporting agencies:
Credit freezes may be done online:
You can freeze your credit by calling our automated line at 1-800-685-1111 or submit your request in writing by mail (certified mail return receipt requested) to:
Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, Georgia 30348
Please be sure to include the following:
Your complete name including any suffix (e.g. JR., Sr., etc)
Social Security Number
Date of Birth
Payment if applicable – (They accept checks, money orders, or a major credit card for the appropriate fees.)
For your protection, please also send some proof of identification.
You can Unfreeze by mail, online or by calling 1-800-272-9281.
Credit freezes may be done online:
or by mail (certified mail – return receipt requested)
Send all of the requested information to:
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
Include your full name, with middle initial and generation, such as JR, SR, II, III, etc.; Social Security number; date of birth (month, day and year); current address and previous addresses for the past two years; and $10 ($5 for residents 65 years of age or older) fee or a valid investigative or incident report or complaint with a law enforcement agency or the DMV.
In addition, enclose one copy of a government issued identification card, such as a driver’s license, state or military ID card, etc., and one copy of a utility bill, bank or insurance statement, etc. Make sure that each copy is legible (enlarge if necessary), displays your name and current mailing address, and the date of issue (statement dates must be recent).
Experian will not accept credit card statements, voided checks, lease agreements, magazine subscriptions or postal service forwarding orders as proof.
Copies of any documents should be sent, and you should always retain your original documents. They will send you a confirmation notice once the security freeze has been added, and you will be given a personal identification number (PIN) that will be required in order to remove the freeze temporarily (in order to apply for credit or for any transaction that requires that another party access your personal credit report) or permanently.
To temporarily remove a security freeze for a period of time in order to apply for credit or for any transaction that requires that another party access your personal credit report, log on to www.experian.com/freeze or call 1 888 EXPERIAN (1 888 397 3742), then enter your identification information and PIN.
The fee for temporarily removing a security freeze is $10 ($5 for residents 65 years of age or older). There is no fee for victims of identity theft who provide a valid copy of an identity theft report filed with a law enforcement agency.
To temporarily remove a security freeze for a specific party, provide your PIN to the party you wish to grant access to your report.
To permanently remove a security freeze, log on to www.experian.com/freeze or call 1 888 EXPERIAN (1 888 397 3742). You also may write to us and provide all your identification information and PIN. If you write to us, always include a copy of your personal identification information and proof of your address as specified in this letter. The fee for permanently removing a security freeze is $10 ($5 for residents 65 years of age or older). There is no fee for victims of identity theft who provide a valid copy of an identity theft report filed with a law enforcement agency. Mail the requested information and payment to the address above.
Acceptable forms of payment to place or remove a security freeze are credit card, check and money order. If you submit your credit card information by mail, be sure to include the name exactly as it is displayed on the card, the credit card type, the credit card number and the expiration date. Accepted credit cards are American Express, Diners Club, Discover, MasterCard and VISA.
Credit freezes may be done online:
by phone (1-888-909-8872)
or by mail (certified mail – return receipt requested) at the address below:
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
Please note the attachments you must include.
Unfreeze: Do a temporary thaw of your TransUnion credit freeze online or by calling 1-888-909-8872.