Do You Have to Freeze Your Credit Report with Each Credit Reporting Company?

CAPS - Security Freeze
Dear Experian,

When you place a security freeze on your account, what prevents lenders or creditors from using another credit reporting agency to view your credit report? Will the security freeze be added automatically with all three bureaus?

- MDS

Dear MDS,

Freezing your credit report with Experian will not initiate a freeze with the other two national credit reporting agencies. If you wish to have your credit report frozen with all three credit reporting companies, you will need to contact Equifax and TransUnion separately to add a freeze with each of them.

What is a Security Freeze?

A security freeze is a service used to help protect victims of identity theft from new credit account fraud. It works by preventing most businesses from accessing your credit report in response to an application for new credit, goods or services. Businesses will not be able to access your credit report until you lift the freeze. If someone uses your information to apply for an account fraudulently, the business will likely decline the application because it cannot review the credit report.

However, it's important to understand that having a security freeze will not prevent a company that you already do business with from viewing your credit history.

Once your credit file is frozen, it will remain so until you lift the freeze. If you planning to apply for credit in the future, such as for a home loan or car loan, you must contact each of the credit reporting agencies and request that the freeze be lifted in advance.

Freezing your credit file will not prevent identity theft. A credit freeze is only triggered when the individual who stole your identity uses it to apply for a new credit account and your credit report is requested.

A credit freeze does not prevent account takeover of your existing accounts or other types of fraud, such as tax fraud, employment fraud or other financial schemes.

For more information on security freezes, visit our Freeze Center.

Ways to Protect Your Credit from Fraud and Identity Theft

If you have had your personal information compromised or have been a victim of credit fraud, there are several options for protecting your credit. A credit freeze may not be necessary. Simply adding a security alert to your credit report and checking the report frequently is effective for most people, less disruptive when using credit and is free. Subscribing to a credit monitoring service may also provide additional peace of mind and early warning that you are a victim.

With a security alert, or fraud alert, lenders receive a message when they request your credit that asks them to take extra steps to verify that it is you applying and not a fraudster. The two types of fraud alerts are:

  • Initial Security Alert. This temporary alert lasts for twelve months, giving you the opportunity to review your credit report and monitor your accounts for signs of fraud and identity theft. A telephone number can be added to the alert to give creditors a way to contact you. It can be renewed at the end of the twelve month period.
  • Extended Fraud Victim Alert. This fraud alert remains on your credit report for seven years. Two telephone numbers can be added to the alert. To add an extended alert, you will need to provide Experian with a copy of a valid police report or identity theft report.

When you add a security alert to your Experian credit report, Experian will automatically contact the other two credit reporting companies so that they can add alerts to their files as well.

Unlike a security freeze, having a security alert or fraud alert on your credit report does not prevent creditors from viewing your credit history, so you won't need to have the alerts removed before applying for credit or other services.

That said, because the alert asks the company viewing your report to verify your identity before extending credit, having an alert on file may prevent approval for "instant credit," such as retail store credit cards that you can apply for while at the checkout counter. The alerts might also slow approval for other types of credit while the lender takes steps to verify your identity.

For more information on adding a security alert to your credit report, visit our Fraud Center.

Thanks for asking,
The "Ask Experian" Team

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