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Freezing your credit reports can be a good way to prevent a fraudster from using your information to open a credit account in your name. However, you want to remember to unfreeze your reports before you apply for a loan, credit card or rental—otherwise, your application could be denied because the lender can't review your credit.
Check if Your Credit Report Is Frozen With Each Credit Bureau
You may have three credit reports, one with each of the major consumer credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. When you want to freeze or unfreeze (or "thaw") your credit reports, you'll need to reach out directly to each of the bureaus.
If you can't remember whether your reports are frozen, the process for checking is a little different with each bureau:
- Experian: At Experian, there are several ways to check if your Experian credit report is frozen. If you view your credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com, you'll see a statement on the report indicating the freeze. You could also call Experian to check on your credit report's status and add or remove a freeze. You can contact Experian support at 888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742).
- TransUnion: At TransUnion, you need to create an account on the credit freeze page to manage your TransUnion credit report online. You can then log in to check the status of your report.
- Equifax: Similarly, at Equifax, you can log in to your myEquifax account to find out if your report is frozen.
Check the other credit bureaus' websites for their support phone numbers. If you're calling, be prepared to share a PIN that was created when you froze your credit report or verify your identity by answering security questions.
How to Lift a Freeze
You can lift a credit freeze on your credit report online, or by contacting each credit bureau by mail or phone. The online options may be one of the best ways to remove a credit freeze.
To unfreeze your TransUnion or Equifax credit reports, you'll log in to each account and choose to temporarily or permanently lift the freeze. With a temporary thaw, you select the start and end dates for the thaw.
Experian takes a different approach. You can manage your Experian credit report through the Security Freeze Center without creating or logging in to an account. Instead, you'll use your personal information and the PIN you were emailed when you froze your Experian credit report to temporarily or permanently remove a credit freeze.
If you don't remember your PIN, you can retrieve your PIN by verifying your identity through the Security Freeze Center. Or, you can verify your identity as part of the thaw request rather than using a PIN.
Additionally, Experian lets you create one-time-use codes you can use to give a single creditor access to your Experian credit file. It could be a good way to let a creditor check your report without having to thaw it entirely. Be sure to ask the creditor before relying on these codes, however, since some creditors might not have systems in place to use them.
How to Refreeze Your Credit Report
The process for refreezing your credit reports is similar to unfreezing them.
- If you requested a temporary thaw, your report will be automatically refrozen on the date you chose.
- If you permanently unfreeze your credit reports, you can refreeze them through the Experian Security Freeze Center, and your TransUnion and myEquifax accounts.
You can also place a security freeze over the phone or by mail. Review each bureau's policies for contact information and details, as you may need to print out and complete a form to submit the request by mail.
Each credit bureau also has an option for locking rather than freezing your credit report. Both credit locks and credit freezes can limit outside access to your credit reports. Credit locks may be easier to manage—turning them off and on could be as simple as toggling a button in an app.
Monitor Your Credit and Identity
Even if your credit report is frozen, it's still a good idea to monitor your credit reports for changes. Sign up for free credit report and FICO® Score☉ tracking with an Experian account. If you want additional benefits and protections, such as dark web surveillance, identity theft insurance and CreditLock, Experian has individual and group plans for IdentityWorksSM Plus and IdentityWorksSM Premium.