Published: June 04, 2024
6 min read

How to freeze your credit at all three credit bureaus


Clare Stouffer

Staff writer

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A person learns how to freeze credit on a computer.

Identity theft is an uncomfortable possibility, but freezing your credit can be a powerful step to protect yourself. Learn how credit freezes work and how to place one at each of the major bureaus. Then get premier credit monitoring and identity theft protection services with LifeLock Ultimate Plus.

If your personal information has been compromised, a credit freeze may help. This process restricts access to your credit report, making it much harder for criminals to open new accounts in your name. If you're considering freezing your credit, here's a quick guide to get you started.

What is a credit freeze? 

A freeze restricts access to your credit report, making it significantly harder for creditors and lenders to access your files. You should use it when you suspect or detect suspicious activity on your credit report. However, this also means potential creditors can't access your credit report either.

A graphic defines what a credit freeze is.

A credit freeze consists of three actions: adding, lifting, and removing.

  • Adding a credit freeze means placing a freeze on your credit.
  • Lifting a credit freeze temporarily removes the freeze so you can apply for credit.
  • Removing a credit freeze permanently removes a credit freeze.

Here are a few key considerations to know about credit freezes:

  • Fees: Placing a freeze on your credit report is free, thanks to federal law. You can also temporarily lift or remove the freeze for free at any point.
  • Timing: By law, credit bureaus must freeze your report within one business day of your request if submitted online or by phone. If you submit a request by mail, it may take up to three business days.
  • PIN: You’ll select or be provided a personal identification number associated with the freeze. You should keep your PIN in a secure area so you can easily find it when you want to unfreeze your credit.

By placing a freeze, you essentially lock down your credit report, preventing unauthorized access. This can help prevent fraudulent activity and give you peace of mind.

How a credit freeze combats identity theft

A credit freeze blocks potential identity thieves from using your personal information to take out loans in your name or open a fraudulent account. Both of these can negatively impact your credit score. Many people choose to keep a credit freeze active until they’re ready to take out a loan or open a new account.

If you have been a victim of identity theft, you should consider placing a freeze on your credit files immediately. Keep in mind that a freeze won’t protect your existing financial accounts or other identity-related activities that don’t require a credit check.

Tip: If your Social Security number has been exposed during a data breach, a credit freeze can help prevent anyone from opening new credit accounts in your name.

What is the difference between a credit freeze and a credit lock?

Both a credit freeze and a credit lock limit access to your credit report, but they have slight differences. A freeze is generally mandated by federal law and free, while some creditors may offer credit locks as a temporary measure and might charge a fee.

How to freeze your credit at each bureau

To freeze your credit at each bureau, you’ll need to contact each one directly and supply your personal information. The three major U.S. credit bureaus—Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion®—are a source of credit information for other companies.

A graphic showing what information you need when to place a credit freeze or lift.

Here’s what you’ll need to gather before contacting a credit bureau to place your credit freeze:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Government-issued identification

To place a credit freeze on each of your files, you must contact each credit reporting agency directly.

Equifax credit freeze

Here’s how to execute an Equifax freeze:

  • Online: Visit the Equifax website and navigate to the Security Freeze section.
  • Phone: Call Equifax's customer service line at 1-888-378-4329 (1-888-EQUIFAX) to request a credit freeze.
  • Mail: Download and complete Equifax's credit lock request form from their website and mail it to P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA, 30374-0256.

Experian credit freeze

Here’s how to execute an Experian freeze:

  • Online: Visit the Experian website and navigate to the Credit Lock section.
  • Phone: Call Experian's customer service line at 1-888-397-3742 (1-888-EXPERIAN) to request a credit lock.
  • Mail: Download and complete Experian's credit lock request form from their website and mail it to P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX, 75013.

TransUnion ​​credit freeze

Here’s how to execute a TransUnion freeze:

  • Online: Visit the TransUnion website and navigate to the Credit Lock section.
  • Phone: Call TransUnion's customer service line at 1-800-916-8800 to request a credit lock.
  • Mail: Download and complete TransUnion's credit lock request form from their website and mail it to P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA, 19016-2000.

Advantages and disadvantages of a credit freeze

Though credit freezes can benefit victims of identity theft, there are also some downsides to consider.

A graphic shares the pros and cons of a credit freeze.

Pros of a credit freeze

Here are some of the main benefits of placing a freeze on your credit files:

  • It offers identity theft protection: A credit freeze significantly reduces the risk of someone opening new accounts in your name, which is a major form of identity theft.
  • It helps prevent data sharing: Credit freezes prevent credit bureaus from selling your information for marketing purposes.
  • It doesn't affect your credit score: Freezing your credit does not impact your credit score.
  • It’s free: By federal law, freezing and unfreezing your credit report is free with all three bureaus.

Cons of a credit freeze

Here are some of the disadvantages of placing a freeze on your credit files:

  • It’s inconvenient when applying for new lines of credit: You need to temporarily unfreeze your credit before applying for new loans, credit cards, or other services that require a credit check. This adds an extra step to the process.
  • More management is required: Freezing and unfreezing requires contacting the three credit bureaus individually.
  • It’s not foolproof: A credit freeze won't protect against existing account fraud or other forms of identity theft. You should still monitor your accounts regularly.
  • There may be delays: Unfreezing your credit report can take a few days, which could cause delays in loan approvals.

Reasons to freeze your credit

Freezing your credit shouldn't be taken lightly, but there are a few reasons why you might decide to do it.

A graphic shares five reasons to freeze your credit.

When you want to protect your credit score, prevention is key. Here are some of the scenarios in which you may want to freeze your credit to help protect your finances and personal information:

  • Identity theft: If you've been a victim of identity theft or suspect fraudulent activity, a credit freeze is a crucial step to help limit further damage.
  • Data breach: If your personal information has been compromised in a data breach, freezing your credit can help stop criminals from exploiting that information.
  • Lost or stolen wallet: If you lose your wallet or purse containing identifying documents, a credit freeze can offer peace of mind while you recover them.
  • Applying for jobs: In some professions, employers may perform credit checks. A freeze allows you to control when your credit report is accessed.
  • Identity theft risk: Even without a specific concern, freezing your credit is a proactive way to minimize the risk of identity theft overall.

Protect your credit with LifeLock Ultimate Plus

While freezing your credit offers a robust layer of security, it's not a surefire way to protect against fraud. And it’s not the only step you should take to safeguard your credit.

LifeLock Ultimate Plus provides an arsenal of identity theft protection services like extensive credit monitoring and fraud alerts. And if you ever become a victim of identity theft, LifeLock will help get you back on your feet with expert restoration services. Get greater peace of mind today.

FAQs about how to freeze your credit

Still have questions about how to freeze your credit? We’ve got you covered.

How long do freeze requests take?

The processing time for a credit freeze depends on how you submit your request:

  • Online or by phone: This is the fastest option, with freezes typically placed within one business day.
  • By mail: Allow for three business days for the bureaus to receive and process your request.

Does freezing credit prevent identity theft?

Freezing your credit makes it much harder for fraudsters to open new accounts in your name, significantly reducing the risk of identity theft. However, it doesn't entirely prevent identity theft, such as those that can happen after an account takeover.

Can I freeze my child’s credit?

Yes, in most states, you can freeze your child's credit to help protect against child identity theft and other risks. Contact your credit bureaus for specific details and requirements.

How do I unfreeze my credit?

Unfreezing your credit is similar to placing a freeze. You can typically do it online, by phone, or by mail with each bureau. Unfreezing is usually faster than placing a freeze, often completed within an hour online or by phone.

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. LifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.

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