A security or credit freeze prevents prospective creditors from accessing your credit file. Creditors usually offer you credit if they can access your credit reporting file.
Data breaches have unfortunately become a common occurrence. In the aftermath of breaches, some experts and pundits recommend consumers forgo fraud alerts and instead take the more aggressive measure of freezing their credit reports. If you're unsure which method is best for you, read about the differences between a credit freeze and a fraud alert.
Freezing your credit report can be a good move to help protect yourself from fraudsters stealing your information, opening accounts and spending money in your name. It also means that when you want to apply for credit, you will first need to unfreeze your report.
How to Unfreeze Your Credit Report
The quickest way to unfreeze your credit report is by contacting the credit bureau/s used to freeze your credit. You can do this by phone, by mail, or online.When you freeze your credit reports—which you have to do separately for each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion)—you'd want to unfreeze your credit information in the future. The reason can vary from applying for a new credit card, getting a mortgage, signing up for a cell phone contract, buying a new car, etc.
Since you established your credit freeze at each of the three credit bureaus individually, you will need to unfreeze them at each bureau as well.
You have two options for unfreezing your credit reports:
- Temporary lift: This allows creditors to check your file for a set length of time, then restores the freeze afterwards.
- Permanent removal: This leaves your reports open until you request another freeze.
To unfreeze your credit, you'll need to use the secure PIN, or personal identification number, that you received when you originally requested a freeze. In most cases, if you make the request online or by phone, the credit bureaus can lift a freeze in as little as 15 minutes, although the Federal Trade Commission gives them up to three business days. If you lose your PIN, you'll need to contact each bureau individually to either request a new PIN or permanently lift your freeze.
How Much Does It Cost to Unfreeze Your Credit?
Prior to September 2018, state regulators controlled the fees charged for freezing and unfreezing credit reports. But thanks to a new nationwide law, the process of freezing is now simplified and free for all, no matter what state you reside in.
CreditLock for Experian Members
If you want to lock and unlock your Experian credit report from your smartphone or Experian app without a PIN or a waiting period, Experian CreditWorksSM or Experian IdentityWorksSM members can do that through Experian CreditLock. Like a credit freeze, CreditLock will prevent potential lenders from accessing your credit report. Experian will alert you if we detect attempts to access your credit file while it's locked.
Online Credit Freeze Resources
For more information or help regarding freezing and unfreezing your credit reports with
the three major credit bureaus, check out these resources: