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Free credit freezes and year-long fraud alerts are here, starting September 21st, thanks to a new federal law. Here’s what you should know:

Free credit freezes

Security freezes, also known as credit freezes, restrict access to your credit file, making it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. Starting September 21, 2018, you can freeze and unfreeze your credit file for free. You also can get a free freeze for your children who are under 16. And if you are someone’s guardian, conservator or have a valid power of attorney, you can get a free freeze for that person, too.

How will these freezes work? Contact all three of the nationwide credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If you request a freeze online or by phone, the agency must place the freeze within one business day. If you request a lift of the freeze, the agency must lift it within one hour. If you make your request by mail, the agency must place or lift the freeze within three business days after it gets your request. You also can lift the freeze temporarily without a fee.

Don’t confuse freezes with locks. They work in a similar way, but locks may have monthly fees. If you want a free freeze guaranteed by federal law, then opt for a freeze, not a lock.

Year-long fraud alerts

A fraud alert tells businesses that check your credit that they should check with you before opening a new account. Starting September 21, 2018, when you place a fraud alert, it will last one year, instead of 90 days. Fraud alerts will still be free and identity theft victims can still get an extended fraud alert for seven years.

Credit freezes and the military

If you’re in the military, you’ll still have access to active duty alerts, which let you place a fraud alert for one year, renewable for the time you’re deployed. The active duty alert also gives you an added benefit: the credit reporting agencies will take your name off their marketing lists for prescreened credit card offers for two years (unless you ask them to add you back on).

You can place a fraud alert or active duty alert by visiting any one of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. The one that you contact must notify the other two. You also can find links to their websites at IdentityTheft.gov.

Issues with a credit freeze

If you think a credit reporting agency is not placing a credit freeze or fraud alert properly, you can submit a complaint online or by calling 855-411-2372. If you think someone stole your identity, visit the FTC’s website, IdentityTheft.gov, to get a personalized recovery plan that walks you through the steps to take.

For more information, check out Place a Fraud Alert, Extended Fraud Alerts and Credit Freezes, and Credit Freeze FAQs. And if you’re considering a child credit freeze, you also may want to read Child Identity Theft.

Credit Bureau Contacts

Contact the national credit bureaus to request fraud alerts, credit freezes (also known as security freezes), and opt outs from pre‑screened credit offers.

Equifax
Equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services
800-685-1111

Experian
Experian.com/help
888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)

Transunion
TransUnion.com/credit-help
888-909-8872

133 Comments


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applehazar
September 21, 2018
Great news - but for us that put a freeze on after the equifax breach - do we get our money back?
FTC Staff
September 21, 2018

In reply to by applehazar

The new law does not provide for giving refunds to people who already placed a freeze. But from now on, every time you lift or place a freeze, it will be free with all three credit bureaus.

Davrinker
September 22, 2018

In reply to by FTC Staff

Does my credit score still increase. With my credit freeze inplace?
FTC Staff
September 24, 2018

In reply to by Davrinker

Your credit score can still increase or decrease after you place a credit freeze.

A freeze on your credit file does not freeze your credit score. The freeze on your credit file limits the ability of a business to get access to your credit file. Your credit file includes information about where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you have been sued or have filed for bankruptcy. After you place a freeze on your credit file, you keep on paying bills, and doing things that change the information in your credit file and could affect your credit score.

lcalp227
September 21, 2018
WHY do you Only provide sharing via social media? Not Everyone uses Any of your preferred social media. I only would share via email, if that were available. I have NO social media accounts, period.
FTC Staff
September 21, 2018

In reply to by lcalp227

You can send someone a link to this blog in an email. Copy the URL at the top of this page and send it in an email. The URL for this blog is

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/09/free-credit-freezes-are-here

LillyPadMom
September 25, 2018

In reply to by lcalp227

YOU CAN GET email alerts. Just sign up on the website where it says SIGN UP FOR EMAIL ALERTS. This feature sends emails about various things that are NEWS on the FTC site.
Ash
September 21, 2018
What is the difference between a lock and a freeze? And can you switch from a lock to a freeze if you already had a lock?
FTC Staff
September 21, 2018

In reply to by Ash

Both a credit freeze and a credit lock limit access to your credit file so no one, including you, can open new accounts until you unlock your credit file. To be fully protected by a credit freeze or a credit lock, you must place a freeze or lock with all three nationwide credit reporting agencies.

However, with a lock, you do not get a PIN. Usually you do not need to wait to lock or unlock your credit file, although the current Equifax lock can take 24 to 48 hours. You can lock and unlock your credit file from a computer or mobile device through an app, but not with a phone call.

A lock lasts only as long as you have an ongoing lock agreement with a credit reporting agency. In some cases, you need to pay a monthly fee to maintain your lock service. Credit reporting agencies can set and change lock fees at any time.

If you sign up for a lock, it’s hard to be sure what your legal protections will be if something goes wrong later.  Credit freezes are now governed by federal law.

Dick P
September 27, 2018
Why can't we just contact one (1) Credit Bureau, and that one contact the others. KISS, for the User!
br65
September 21, 2018
Thanks so much for this information.
neumand
September 21, 2018
I have credit freezes for long time and I as recall they were always free. The only sticker is they make you pay through the nose to unlock them for a business to check your credit. That is the one sticker that should be free.
Ms Bmore
September 21, 2018

In reply to by neumand

According to the article and the law, it is now free to freeze and unfreeze your credit. You do not pay anymore.
Chas
September 21, 2018
These companies have made it nearly impossible to contact them about credit freeze issues. Online access is totally without links. If Phone numbers are there I couldn’t find them. Calling generally numbers gets you no link for a freeze. I appreciate that someone is pressing them to address the breach but they make it nearly inaccessible to do.
Odie
September 21, 2018
Is there a limit on how many times you may freeze your account?
FTC Staff
September 21, 2018

In reply to by Odie

No, there is not a limit on how many times you may place a freeze your credit files.

Miin
September 21, 2018
How will Credit Freezing and/or opting out of prescreened offers affect "Specialty"? Consumer Reporting Agencies , ex: Auto insurance ? Will there be any affect on their access and accuracy of the information they can provide ?
FTC Staff
September 24, 2018

In reply to by Miin

The law applies only to nationwide credit reporting agencies. Please contact a business directly to ask if it offers a freeze.

Kl417g
September 21, 2018
Good to know. Thank you for this info and the great work you do to help keep us safe.
kimajohnson36
September 21, 2018
i would like to get signed up for this. What do i need to do for this to get started?
FTC Staff
September 21, 2018

In reply to by kimajohnson36

Use the Credit Bureau Contacts in this blog post to make your request.

KAM
September 21, 2018
I lifted a credit freeze for a few days with all three agencies in August and none charged. That made things a lot easier.
Richard Lee H-----
September 21, 2018
Chas ~ I AGREE W/ you !
Scott E
September 27, 2018
I am an old man, don't understand too much these days. Please tell me what is a freeze and why is it necessary? also, what does it mean "Equifax Breach"....how is money lost? thank you
FTC Staff
September 27, 2018

In reply to by Scott E

Look for the words "Credit Freeze FAQ" in this blog, and click on them. That will open a page of information about credit freezes. 

You can choose to put a freeze on your credit file  - which some people call their credit report. If you freeze your credit file, that makes it harder for a business to get the information it needs to give credit, so it makes it harder for an identity thief to get credit in your name.

Frequent Flyer
September 21, 2018
I thank you! I will keep my fingers crossed and continue my diligence in securing part-time work to subsidize my income. Work has been an important part of getting out of debt someday and perhaps now possible future employers will hire me and not see me as a deadbeat according to the credit bureau scores. This is a huge correction to a less than legal allowance for anyone to access personal information on my financial status. Banks and other financial institutions have that right to protect their interests NOT the Walmart’s, Kmarts, etc of this country!!
Sam
September 21, 2018
I have a credit freeze on my credit report for about 10 years. That was the smartest thing I did in a long time.
wplus10
September 21, 2018
When lifting a freeze temporarily for free/no-fee, how long does the "Lift" stay in effect? Does the duration of the free Lift vary from state to state, or is the Lift duration standardized by Federal law? For example, when obtaining a car loan a consumer may need to unfreeze their credit files; will a temporary (free) Lift last long enough for the lender to complete due diligence and approve the loan (maybe 5 days?)? Thanks!
FTC Staff
September 21, 2018

In reply to by wplus10

When you lift a freeze, you have two options. These two options are available to everyone in the country.

(1) You can lift a freeze permanently. If you do, it stays lifted until you place it again.

(2) You can lift a freeze temporarily. If you do, you must tell the credit reporting agency the length of time you want the freeze to be lifted; for example "five days." The credit reporting agency will put the freeze back on at the end of the time you chose. 

Remember to contact each of the three national credit reporting agencies separately to lift and re-place a freeze on your credit files. 

confused widow at 85
August 25, 2020

In reply to by FTC Staff

I have filled Experian's forms to lift the freeze on my credit and there is a dispute about my address so can not get any further for answers and no way to get through to a person to speak to? New build house living here just 10 month's. what can I do now?
Gaelgha
September 25, 2018
I placed a freeze on the three bureau and paid the fees. Will the freezes continue unless canceled?
FTC Staff
September 25, 2018

In reply to by Gaelgha

A freeze remains in place until you ask a credit reporting agency to lift it temporarily or permanently.

Denny
September 21, 2018
Do I have to unfreeze (lift) my credit freeze if I use my credit card? Can someone point me in the direction to find the answer? I know you have to lift the freeze if you want credit but is using a credit card considered the same thing?
FTC Staff
September 21, 2018

In reply to by Denny

No, you don't have to lift a credit freeze before you use a credit card you already have.

Dragontitus
September 21, 2018

In reply to by FTC Staff

So the freeze is only for prevention of new accounts being opened? Say there is someone reporting false information to Equifax, no good reason except to cause damage and reduced score. Would a freeze prevent the addition of more false reports?
FTC Staff
September 24, 2018

In reply to by Dragontitus

If someone reports false information, report that to the credit bureau and ask them to remove it.

When a credit freeze is in place, a creditor can still report delinquent debts. It’s possible that someone could report false information when a freeze is in place.

1MoreThing
September 21, 2018
I tried, in vain, to reach Equifax over three days. I will try again. Interesting that Equifax allowed ID info to be stolen; BUT, they’ll now Protect us for $20/month. So predictable...
FTC Staff
September 21, 2018

In reply to by 1MoreThing

Starting on September 21, 2018, a credit freeze is free. You don't need to pay for a credit freeze. Use the information in this blog to contact each credit reporting agency to request a free credit freeze.

worldseriescha…
September 21, 2018
If I freeze my credit, is it possible and/or necessary to review my credit report annually?
FTC Staff
September 24, 2018

In reply to by worldseriescha…

Yes, you can still view your credit report when a freeze is in place. Go to anualcreditreport.com to get your free credit report.

It’s wise to check your report at least once a year for any signs of identity theft. Your credit report includes information about where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued or have filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide credit reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment or renting a home.

Chibi2
September 21, 2018
Are all family members included in the freeze or should each family member be named ?
FTC Staff
September 21, 2018

In reply to by Chibi2

A person has an individual credit file. A person usually has three individual credit files, because there are three nationwide credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

If a person wants a complete credit freeze, he or she must contact the three credit reporting agencies and ask each agency to place a freeze.

 

Midwater
September 21, 2018
I have had credit freezes at all three credit reporting agencies since 2007 and it has worked perfectly, until recently. In the past when I had to apply for credit, I just contacted the credit reporting agencies and along with my PIN, was able to lift the credit freeze for the short time period needed to be approved for credit/loans. Last August (2018) I tried to lift the credit freezes in order to get approval for a new auto loan. Experian and TransUnion were no problem, however, Equifax was a nightmare to unfreeze. In the end, I had to give up on Equifax and apply for the loan with just Experian and TransUnion unfrozen. Luckily, the loan went through. Equifax refused to unfreeze my records, unless I wrote to them by snail mail, which defeats the purpose of being able to unfreeze my records quickly. I hope this new law will get Equifax to fix their credit unfreezing process . . .
Robert
June 08, 2019

In reply to by Midwater

I had the same problem with Experian. I had my pin right in front of me, answered personal questions etc., and still denied many times. When I finally sent the information they wanted in by mail, I just had them remove it permanently! Way too much trouble! There has to be an easier way!
Dan
June 12, 2019

In reply to by Robert

Same here. Experian won't let you unfreeze your credit unless you mail in sensitive documents to their company and then who knows what happens to the documents? I would like to know how these companies were allowed to form and store credit information for people. Who gave them the authority and who besides FTC regulates what they do and from where they operate?
FTC Staff
June 27, 2019

In reply to by Dan

The FTC has several articles that explain what goes into your credit reports and credit score and how to dispute errors on the Credit and Loans page.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) also has information about credit reports and credit scores. If you have an issue with credit reporting or scores, you can submit a complaint to the CFPB. Their staff will work to get you a response from the company.

RbhadaurDon't …
September 24, 2018
I think Freeze should be default, not requisition. Ivy default FTC should ask each credit monitoring agency to freeze everyone account. When they request then only open it.