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How to Freeze My Credit [Video]

by Michelle Smalenberger / February 4, 2021

Have you heard of or been affected by the recent increase in fraud lately? Especially, here in Illinois there has been a large increase of fraudulent unemployment claims. There are a number of things you can do to protect yourself from falling victim. You could obtain your credit report and review it to make sure there aren’t already any fraudulent actions. Then, to really stop people from making fraudulent transactions you can freeze your credit. This keeps anyone from accessing your credit so you can’t get new debt or apply for things that depend on your credit.

How do I freeze my credit?

Today we will answer that question “how do I freeze my credit?” In today’s video we are literally going to walk you through this process.  Trevore is going to walk us step-by-step through the process so you can follow along.

We are going to start at the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) website www.consumer.FTC.gov.  This is a really helpful website as it is straight from the source.  You don’t have to worry an author’s bias.  This is direct and straight to the point and we would highly recommend you use it.  Specifically for this page we are looking at how to walk through the credit freeze application.  

What is a Credit Freeze?

This page walks you through what a credit freeze actually is. You might remember the 2018 Equifax breach which caused a lot of uproar.  Many people had their information stolen and used against them.   Due to that happening congress passed a law back in 2018 that made it free for any person or any consumer to freeze their credit free of charge.  Previously, there was a fee up to about $10 for each time, but now it is free and it’s easy to do. We like to recommend that clients go ahead and freeze all their credit.

When Shouldn’t You Freeze Your Credit?

Be aware that there are some instances in which you do not want to freeze your credit.  You can read on the FTC website some examples and explanations.  For example, if you are about to close on a home or refinance in the next week, you would not want to freeze your credit right now. Lenders need to see your credit report when you’re trying to qualify for a loan.  However, you can unfreeze your credit temporarily.  You can talk with the lender and ask when they are going to pull your credit. This allows you to temporarily unfreeze it for a week or so in order for them to run your credit. After the date you chose to unfreeze your credit the credit bureau will automatically freeze it back. Later in our video we will walk you through this process as well.

Complete the “freeze my credit” process with each credit bureau

While you are looking at the FTC website you will see a gray box that has three websites that show the three major credit unions; Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.  These all link directly to where we need to go and freeze our credit.  Let’s start at the top with Equifax.    

As you can see many of these credit bureaus will ask you to sign up for an account.  Which is fine as this will allow you to log in and freeze and unfreeze your credit easily going forward.  The identity verification process with these bureaus will ask you to do a few different things.  It may be by a confirmation email and verification code or by answering specific questions about your credit history.  This is a way for someone to be protected in case someone tries to apply for something in your name. They may try to apply for unemployment or loans in your name and this allows your data to be protected. 

Our data that is at these credit bureaus has all the information for any loan that we have ever received like any payment history, whether you made the payments on time, how much your credit limits are, etc.  That information is very valuable to various lenders and marketers and when we lock it or freeze it, unfortunately those vendors can’t access our credit history. However more importantly it means we can’t open up a new account unless we have our credit file unfrozen so this can help with identity theft issues.

After I have entered the identification information proving I am the one requesting this information I simply click freeze.  Remember we do have to do this for each of the credit bureaus.  Start back at the FTC website each time you start with a new credit bureau.

You will notice it also allows you to freeze the credit for a minor. This is something we would recommend as well to help protect possibly your children’s credit history.  This process is a little different as you have to mail something instead of doing it all directly online. 

Temporarily Unfreezing Your Credit

Now we can walk through the process of unfreezing your credit in the instance you are refinancing, getting a car loan, or opening a credit card. We can temporarily unfreeze our credit as this allows us to choose when we want it to start and end.  A typical lender will try and check your credit as soon as they can.  So it may be in the first few days and then I like to reapply the freeze maybe 2-3 weeks after.

You will need to unfreeze each of these bureaus or depending on your lender, you may only need to unfreeze your credit at one credit bureau.  In the example of applying for a home loan they will need access to all three of these bureaus so you will want to unfreeze all three.  When looking at a car loan it is usually one to two credit bureaus that they check and a credit card is usually one.  So you can check with your lender to see which ones you need to unfreeze.  

If you have any questions about freezing or unfreezing your credit or maybe you are stuck in a particular area on these websites reach out to us and let us know. We would be happy to help you with this.

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Michelle Smalenberger

I have a passion for helping others develop a path to financial success! Through different lenses on your financial picture, I want to help create solutions with you that are thoughtful of today and the future. I have seen in my life the power of having a financial plan while making slight changes of direction from time to time. I believe you can experience freedom from anxiety and even excitement when you know your finances are on track.