How can I add a credit freeze to my credit report?
You have the right to request a credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, with Experian online, by phone or by mail. If you have an online account with Experian, you can freeze and unfreeze your credit file by simply logging in to your account and toggling the freeze status to frozen or unfrozen. If you don't have an account, you can create a free Experian account to access a security freeze online.
You can also request a security freeze on your credit file by phone at 888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742) or by mailing a request to Experian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013. There is no fee to add or remove a freeze.
If you place a security freeze on your Experian credit file, it is not shared with the other two credit reporting agencies. You will need to contact Equifax and TransUnion separately if you wish to freeze your credit files with them.
Security Freeze vs. Fraud Alert
People sometimes confuse a security freeze with a fraud alert. While a fraud alert notifies lenders that you may be a victim of identity theft and asks them to verify your identity before processing your credit application, freezing your credit file limits who can access your credit report when an application is submitted without the freeze first being lifted by you.
Some parties will still be able to access your credit file, however, including lenders with whom you have an existing account and collection agencies acting on behalf of an existing account. They'll be allowed to access your report for purposes of reviewing (account maintenance, monitoring, credit line increases and account upgrades and enhancements) or collecting the account. Other exceptions include reports requested for:
- Employment purposes
- Insurance underwriting purposes
- Background screening
- Tenant screening
- Child support enforcement
- Assessing, verifying or authenticating a consumer's identity for purposes other than the granting of credit
- Investigating or preventing actual or potential fraud
- Making preapproved credit offers
How to Unfreeze Your Credit Report
If you already have an Experian account, you can easily unfreeze your credit by logging in to your account and toggling the freeze status to unfrozen or scheduling a future thaw with a calendar option. When you toggle to unfrozen, Experian will lift your freeze within one hour.
If you do not have an Experian account, you can create a free account at Experian's Security Freeze Center to unfreeze your credit online. You can also call 888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742) or contact Experian by mail to unfreeze your credit. If you send your request by mail, Experian will lift the freeze within three business days of receiving your request.
Should You Freeze Your Credit Report?
Depending on your situation, requesting an initial fraud alert, also known as a security alert, may be sufficient. The alert warns lenders that you are at risk of fraud and asks that they take action to verify your identity before granting credit in your name.
When you request an initial fraud alert to be added to your credit file with any of the three major credit bureaus, the bureau you contact will notify the other two and alerts will be added on those credit files as well. An initial security alert will remain on your report for one year.
Along with adding the initial alert, Experian will automatically opt you out of receiving preapproved offers for six months.
If you are planning to apply for credit in the near future, it may be better to not freeze your credit file, or to postpone freezing it until you no longer need access to the credit marketplace. With a security alert, you can add a phone number that the lender can use to contact you and verify your identity when they receive an application for credit in your name.
Thanks for asking.
Jennifer White, Consumer Education Specialist