I just lost my driver's license and am considering putting a security freeze on my credit reports. Would this interfere with me using my credit card, either online, at shops or for the services that are automatically billed to my credit card each month?
Freezing your credit file has no impact on how you use your current credit accounts. Any credit cards or other accounts you already have will continue to function the same as they always have, and automatic payments will continue to be processed as usual.
How Does a Credit Freeze Work?
The purpose of a security freeze is to help protect you from others opening credit accounts in your name without your permission. It limits businesses from accessing your credit report when trying to evaluate a credit application. A security freeze is most commonly used when a person is a victim of identity theft and wants to protect their credit.
If you froze your credit file and you or another party were to apply for new credit with a lender using your personal identification information, the lender would be unable to access your credit report when processing the application. As such, if you want to apply for credit when your credit is frozen, you would first need to lift your security freeze. Freezes can be lifted on a permanent or temporary basis.
Should You Freeze Your Credit File?
Before adding a security freeze, you may instead consider requesting an initial fraud alert and a free credit report so that you can review it carefully. If there is no sign of fraud in your report, you might not need to take additional action.
The initial fraud alert will:
- Remain on your credit report for one year
- Be provided to everyone who requests your report
- Warn lenders that you are at risk of fraud and ask that they take action to verify your identity before granting credit in your name
If you place a fraud alert on your Experian credit file, it is shared automatically with the other national credit reporting companies (TransUnion and Equifax).
If you do notice signs of identity theft or discover that you've been a victim of credit fraud, it's best to file a police report or identity theft report with law enforcement. Once you submit a copy of that report to Experian, we can add an extended fraud alert notifying lenders that you have been a victim. This alert remains on your report for seven years and asks lenders to contact you at the number you provide if someone applies for credit in your name.
In some instances, such as when credit fraud seems to be ongoing, a consumer may feel that it is in their best interest to freeze their credit file. Because having a credit freeze means you will need to lift the freeze prior to applying for new credit, it is considered a more extreme step, especially if you are planning to apply for credit in the near future.
Keep in mind that there are a number of exemptions to credit freezes, including requests for your credit report by employers, landlords or leasing companies; law enforcement; businesses with which you have an existing relationship; and for purposes of making prescreened credit offers.
How to Freeze Your Credit
You can request a credit freeze to be added to your credit report by logging in to or creating an account at Experian's online Freeze Center, by phone at 888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742), or by mailing your request to Experian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013. If sending your request by mail, be sure to include your complete identification information, including your full name, address, date of birth and Social Security number.
When you place a security freeze on your Experian credit file, it is not automatically shared with other credit reporting agencies. You will need to contact Equifax and TransUnion separately if you wish to freeze your file with them. You also will need to contact each credit reporting company separately to lift the freezes before applying for new credit.
Like fraud alerts, credit freezes are free of charge.
To learn more about fraud alerts and security freezes, visit Experian's Fraud Center and Freeze Center. You can also sign up for Experian's free credit monitoring, which can help you detect potential identity theft and fraud sooner.
Thanks for asking.
Jennifer White, Consumer Education Specialist