How to Freeze and Unfreeze Your Credit Report and Why You Need To

When you place a “freeze” on your credit reports, it prevents anyone from accessing those reports without your permission. You should place a permanent freeze on all three credit reports to fully protect your information.

Ever since the Equifax data breach of 2017, people have been much more careful about who can access their credit reports and when. A lot of people froze their credit report immediately following the breach, but a lot of people never realized their credit report could be at risk.

What Is a Credit Report Freeze?

There are three credit bureaus that manage credit reports for U.S. citizens. Those three are:

Whenever you apply for credit or if you’re applying for an apartment and someone does a credit check on you, that credit check involves one or more of those credit bureaus.

When your credit reports are unfrozen, anyone with access to those systems can check your credit report. Most “hard” checks are initiated by you and require permission, but there are also many “soft” credit checks by companies looking to send you credit offers.

However, the biggest risk would be if criminal hackers were to breach the security of those credit reporting agencies. This puts your sensitive information at risk and introduces a serious threat to identity theft.

When you place a “freeze” on your credit reports, it prevents anyone from accessing those reports without your permission. You should place a permanent freeze on all three credit reports to fully protect your information.

How to Freeze Your Equifax Credit Report

Equifax provides a page on their site tailored to help you manage a security freeze on your account.

Equifax security freeze page

If you haven’t set up a security freeze yet, you’ll want to select Get Started With A Freeze. You’ll need to fill out a form including your name, date of birth, social security number, phone number, and address. All of this information will be checked against your actual credit report to ensure it all matches.

equifax freeze credit form

At the confirmation of your credit freeze, Equifax will provide you with an account for their website, and a PIN you can use at any point to unfreeze your credit report. Keep this PIN in a very safe place and don’t lose it or unlocking your credit report will be extremely difficult.

How to Unfreeze Your Equifax Credit Report

Once you’ve gone through the process to place a freeze on your Equifax report, you can return to this page at any time to temporarily unfreeze the report. You’ll want to do this before you apply for credit anywhere.

To do this, on the same web page, select Manage a Freeze.

You can fill out the same form as above to access your report with your social security number. Or you can sign in using the credentials you were provided when you first froze your credit report. If you use your sign-in credentials, you won’t need your PIN.

Select Manage a freeze to access the process to temporarily lift or permanently remove a credit freeze. At the bottom of the page for Step 1, you’ll see two options for managing your security freeze.

  • Temporarily lift a Security Freeze for a specified Date Range
  • Permanently remove a security freeze

Select the option to put a temporary lift in place and select the option to accept the Terms of Use. Select Next to continue.

On the next page, set the date range where you’d like to keep the security freeze lift active.

Once you select Submit, you’ll see a confirmation that your security freeze lift is activated.

How to Freeze Your Experian Credit Report

Experian offers a Security Freeze Center page where you can manage your Experian security freeze.

If you don’t have a security freeze yet, select Add a security freeze. On the next page, select Freeze my own credit file.

adding an experian security freeze

On the next page, you’ll need to fill out a similar form that you had to fill out for Equifax. Fill in your name, address, social security number, date of birth, and email address. At the bottom, you can select your own PIN number.

adding an experian security freeze

Once you select Submit, you’ll see a confirmation that your security freeze with Experian is active. Remember to jot down the PIN number and save it in a safe place.

How to Unfreeze Your Experian Credit Report

To lift your freeze with Experian, visit the same Security Freeze Center page. This time select Remove or lift a security freeze.

You’ll need to fill out a similar form with the same information. At the bottom, you can type the start and end dates for your security freeze lift.

experian temporary freeze removal

Select Submit and once you provide the PIN number, you’ll see a confirmation that your temporary security freeze lift is active.

How to Freeze Your TransUnion Credit Report

Just like the other two credit bureaus, TransUnion offers its own Credit Freeze page. If you haven’t frozen your credit yet, select Add Freeze under Freeze My Credit on this page.

transunion security freeze page

You’ll need to fill out the same kind of form as the previous credit bureaus. However, TransUnion does provide login details once you freeze your credit. So next time you can log in rather than using the form.

But, to freeze your credit for the first time, fill out the form and select Submit & Continue to Step 2. Step 2 is where you create your login details, and Step 3 is where you verify your identity through your email.

You’ll receive a confirmation that your TransUnion security has been frozen, and the PIN that you’ll need to save in a safe place.

How to Unfreeze Your TransUnion Credit Report

If you ever need to unfreeze your credit report with TransUnion when you’re applying for credit, just return to the Credit Freeze page and log in using the account details you were provided.

When you log in, you’ll see the status as Frozen. Select the Temporarily Lift Freeze option.

temporarily lift transunion freeze

On the next screen, you’ll see a simple form where you just need to type the Start Date and the End Date for the security freeze lift.

transunion security freeze lift

Select Continue and you’ll see a confirmation with the date range you’ve requested.

How to Use a Temporary Security Freeze Lift

You don’t always have to unfreeze your credit with every credit bureau. If you know the creditor you’re applying with only uses TransUnion, then just lift the security freeze on your TransUnion account.

If the creditor isn’t clear which credit bureau they use, or they use multiple ones, go ahead and unfreeze all three. But make sure the time of the lift is as short as possible.

The idea is to only loosen your credit security only as much as you need and for as little time as you have to.

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