Placing a credit freeze can prevent identity theft, but it can also make it more difficult to apply for new credit. Is a credit freeze right for you?
In order to keep unwanted new accounts from being opened in your name without your consent, you can consider freezing your credit report. (This is different from a fraud alert. Here’s more info on how they compare.)
As of September 2018, placing a credit freeze is free at all three bureaus.
When you freeze your credit report, it means that lenders will not be able to see your credit report – which will keep fraudsters from using your credit to open fake accounts. However, until you un-freeze your credit, you won't be able to open new accounts either.
Not sure how to freeze your credit? Each of the top three credit bureaus makes it simple for you to initiate a freeze.
Keep in mind that once you freeze your credit, it will remain frozen even if you authorize a hard pull in the process of applying for new credit. This is because lenders won’t necessarily be able to tell whether a fraudster is trying to open an account in your name, or if it's really you. To work around this, when you’re legitimately applying for a new loan, credit card, or other new account, you’ll have to temporarily lift the security freeze. Keep in mind that unfreezing your account can take up to 48 hours.
If you are someone who frequently opens new accounts or takes loans, a credit lock is another option for you. It will allow you to easily unlock your credit immediately. Still, experts agree a credit freeze is a better option to fight identity theft.
If you're concerned that you're at risk for identity theft, you should also consider signing up for a credit monitoring service that will keep you looped in on any changes to your credit report. Whether it's a new hard pull, a new account opened, a change to your personal information, or even a late payment – you'll get alerts in real time so that you can prevent fraudsters from doing any more damage. Credit protection comes standard with CreditPop.