How to "Freeze" Your Credit Files (10 pages)
What is the difference between a fraud alert and a freeze?
A fraud alert is a special message on the report that a credit issuer receives when checking a
consumer’s credit rating. It tells the credit issuer that there may be fraud involved in the account.
A fraud alert can help protect you against identity theft. A fraud alert can also slow down your
ability to get new credit. It should not stop you from using your existing credit cards or other
accounts. A security freeze means that your credit file cannot be seen by potential creditors,
insurance companies, or employers doing background checks – unless you give your consent.
Most businesses will not open credit accounts without first checking a consumer’s credit history.
How long does it take for a security freeze to be in effect?
Credit bureaus must place the freeze no later than three business days after receiving your written
How long does it take for a security freeze to be lifted?
Credit bureaus must lift a freeze no later than three business days after receiving your request.
What will a creditor who requests my file see if it is frozen?
A creditor will see a message or a code indicating that the file is frozen.
Can a creditor get my credit score if my file is frozen?
No. A creditor who requests your file from one of the three credit bureaus will only get a message
or a code indicating that the file is frozen.
Can I still get my free annual credit report if my file is frozen?
Yes. To order your free annual credit reports, see our CIS 11: How to Order Your Free Credit
Reports. For Experian and TransUnion reports, use the regular procedures for ordering. For
Equifax, order by mail using the form included in CIS 11 and also provide the PIN issued to you
by Equifax when you freeze your file.
Can anyone see my credit file if it is frozen?
When you have a security freeze on your credit file, certain entities still have access to it. Your
report can still be released to your existing creditors or to collection agencies acting on their
behalf. They can use it to review or collect on your account. Other creditors may also use your
information to make offers of credit – unless you opt out of receiving such offers. See below for
how to opt out of pre-approved credit offers. Government agencies may have access for