How security freezes work
Many (but not all) states allow you to place a security freeze on your credit file for free or for a reduced fee. A security freeze will put your credit file on ice by preventing the information in your Equifax credit file from being reported to third parties, such as credit grantors and other companies.
In addition, security freezes:
- Block your credit file from being disclosed to third parties (except as noted above). Should you wish to apply for a loan or service, you must be proactive in requesting a lift in the security freeze so that the necessary third parties will be able to view the credit file if the file is frozen (except those exempted by law).
- Remain on your credit file until you decide to remove or lift them.
- Give you more control over who looks at your credit file.
- May require a payment, based on the state in which you reside, to place and/or lift the freeze.
- Are an effective way to prevent an identity thief from opening most new accounts in your name. However, a security freeze cannot prevent all types of identity theft.
For example, a security freeze will not prevent an identity thief from using your existing credit cards or other accounts.
With a security freeze, lenders will not be able to gain access to your credit file unless you give permission by “thawing” the frozen file using a secret code, similar to a personal identification number (also known as a PIN). This means that it’s unlikely that an identity thief would be able to open a new account in your name. Look into whether or not a security freeze is available in your state, what your state requires, how to request one, and
what fees may apply.
Keep in mind that even with a security freeze in place, your credit file will still be disclosed in certain situations. For example, companies with which you do business (such as your mortgage, credit card, or cell phone company) will still have access to your credit report, as would collection agencies that are working for one of those companies.
Companies will also still be able to offer you prescreened credit—the credit offers you receive in the mail for which you have not applied.
Additionally, in some states, potential employers, insurance companies, landlords, and other non-creditors can still get access to your credit report with a security freeze in place. However, even after you place a security freeze, you will continue to have access to your free annual credit report, and you will also be able to purchase your credit report and credit score.
The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.