Iowa Attorney General

Guide to Security Freezes

Each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) offers consumers the ability to place a credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, on each credit report.  A security freeze restricts access to your credit report, so your credit file cannot be shared with potential creditors.  A security freeze can help prevent identity theft, because businesses will not open credit accounts without first checking your credit history.  If your credit files are frozen, even someone who has your name and Social Security number probably will not be able to obtain credit in your name.  Placing a security freeze does not affect your credit score, nor does it keep you from getting your free annual credit report.

How much does it cost?
A security freeze is free to identity theft victims who have a police report of identity theft. If you are not an identity theft victim, it will cost you $10 to place a freeze with each credit reporting agency. That’s a total of $30 to freeze your credit information at each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).

How do I place a security freeze?
To place a freeze, you must make a separate request to each of the three credit reporting agencies. You must provide identifying information listed below. If you are an identity theft victim, you may provide a copy of your police report in lieu of the $10 fee.

Go online or write to the addresses listed below and send the documentation listed:

Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348             

  • Go online to http://www.equifax.com/help/credit-freeze/en_cp or send a request by certified mail.
  • Include name, current and former addresses for the last two years, Social Security   number, and date of birth.
  • Copy of a utility bill, insurance or bank statement, etc., showing your name and current mailing address.
  • $10.00 fee payable by check, money order, or credit card (or an identity theft report to a law enforcement agency in lieu of payment for identity theft victims). Give name of credit card, account number, expiration date, and Card Identification Number.
  • To learn more about the Equifax security freeze, go to www.Equifax.com

Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013

  • Log online at www.experian.com/freeze/center.html or send a request by certified mail.
  • Include name, current and former addresses for the last two years, Social Security   number, and date of birth.
  • Enclose a copy of a government identification card, such as a driver’s license, state ID card or military ID card.
  • Copy of a utility bill, insurance or bank statement, etc., showing your name and current mailing address.
  • $10.00 fee payable by check, money order, or credit card (or an identity theft report to a law enforcement agency in lieu of payment for identity theft victims). Give name of credit card, account number and expiration date.
  • To learn more about the Experian security freeze, go to www.Experian.com

TransUnion Security Freeze
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA  19022

  • Log online at www.transunion.com/personal-credit/credit-disputes/credit-freezes.page or send a request by certified mail.
  • Include name, current and former addresses for the last five years, Social Security   number, and date of birth.
  • $10.00 fee payable by check, money order, or credit card (or an identity theft report to a law enforcement agency in lieu of payment for identity theft victims).  Give name of credit card, account number and expiration date.
  • To learn more about the TransUnion security freeze, go to www.TransUnion.com

How long will the security freeze remain on my credit report?
A security freeze will remain on your credit report until you request it to be removed.

Can I open new credit accounts if my files are frozen?
Yes, but you have to lift the freeze to obtain a new credit card or loan. You can lift it for a period of time, or you can lift it for a specific creditor, or you can lift it permanently.  After you send your letter asking for the freeze, each of the credit reporting agencies will send you a Personal Identification Number (PIN). You will also get instructions on how to lift the freeze. There are a variety of ways to lift the freeze (by mail, phone or Internet) using your PIN. The fee for lifting the freeze is $12.

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 reporting agencies will only get a message or a code indicating that the file is frozen.

Will a freeze lower my credit score?
No.

Can an employer do a background check on me if I have a freeze on my credit file?
No. You would have to lift the freeze to allow a background check or to apply for insurance, just as you would to apply for credit. The process for lifting the freeze is described above.
              
Can I order my own credit report if my file is frozen?
Yes.  To obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) once every 12 months, call toll-free 877-322-8228, or order online at www.AnnualCreditReport.com, or write to P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
              
Can anyone see my credit file if it is frozen?
Your credit 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 collecting child support payments, taxes, or in the course of a legal proceeding.

Does freezing my file mean that I won’t receive pre-approved credit offers?
No. You can stop the pre-approved credit offers by calling 888-567-8688. Or you can do this online at www.optoutprescreen.com. This will stop most of the offers, the ones that go through the credit reporting agencies. It’s good for five years or you can make it permanent.

Do I have to freeze my file with all three credit reporting agencies?
Yes. Different credit issuers may use different credit reporting agencies. If you want to stop your credit file from being viewed, you need to freeze it with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Do I have to lift the security freeze at all three credit reporting agencies?
No.  You can ask the potential creditor which credit reporting agency it is going to utilize.  Then place a global lift (with a start and end date) or a specific third party lift with that credit reporting agency.

Does my spouse’s file have to be frozen, too?
Yes. Both spouses have to freeze their separate credit files, via separate letters requesting the freeze, in order to get the benefit. That means the total cost for freezing is $10 x 3 credit reporting agencies x 2 people = $60.

Does a security freeze guarantee that I will not be a victim of identity theft?
No.  While a security freeze can help keep an identity thief from opening most new accounts in your name, it will not prevent all types of identity theft (such as; criminal, driver’s license, government benefit, insurance, medical, and Social Security).  It will not protect you, for example, from an identity thief who uses your existing credit cards or other accounts.  The freeze won’t be able to stop fraudulent activity that has already taken place before the security freeze was initiated.  While a security freeze may not be able to protect you in these kinds of cases, it can protect you from the vast majority of identity thefts which involve opening a new line of credit! 

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