Freezing Credit Reports
Last updated 25th Apr 2022
- Last Updated: Friday, 16 October 2020
Restricting Access to Credit Reports
Fees ChargedFees can range from free (for identity theft victims) to around $10. A fee is charged by each of the three credit reporting agencies, so a consumer can expect to pay around $30 to freeze all their reports. Married couples will pay up to $60. When applying for new credit, restrictions can be temporarily lifted. Again, fees will vary by state, but the temporary or the permanent removal of a freeze typically costs $5 to $10 per report. Finally, some states allow these restrictions to expire after seven years, while in other states it remains active until a removal request is made by the consumer.
Requesting a FreezeLimiting access involves contacting all three credit-reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The most effective way to do this is through a written letter. Victims of identity theft can avoid paying fees by sending the credit bureau a copy of a police report, or a report filed with a law enforcement agency. Along with payment, the information typically required when restricting access to a report includes:
- Full name, middle initial as well as any suffix (Jr., Sr., III), address, Social Security Number and date of birth.
- The street addresses of all former residences over the past five years.
- Proof the consumer is living at their current address, such as a recent utility bill that includes both a name and address.
- A copy of a government-issued identification card, such as a driver's license or military identification.
TimelinesThe credit-reporting agency has three business days after receiving a request to activate a freeze on the report. After five business days, the agency must send a confirmation letter along with a personal identification number, or PIN. Consumers cannot use their Social Security Number, or any portion of it, to create a password. The PIN is used to temporarily, or permanently, remove restrictions. As of September 1, 2009, all credit reporting agencies must allow access to reports within 15 minutes after receiving a request.
Temporarily Lifting a FreezeSince restricting access to a report is used to prevent identity thieves from opening new lines of credit, these restrictions will have to be lifted whenever applying for credit. Companies that have access to a report prior to a freeze will have access afterwards too. This includes mortgage, cell phone, and / or credit card companies. In addition, debt collection agencies working on behalf of those companies will also have access to reports.
LimitationsPreventing unauthorized access to credit reports limits the potential for a stranger to obtain a new line of credit or a loan in a victim's name. Unfortunately, it has no impact on the following account types:
- Existing credit cards or debit card accounts
- Existing bank accounts
- Certain new accounts such as telephone service and even some bank accounts that can be opened without running a credit check.
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