A credit freeze protects you by blocking access to your credit reports even if a criminal has key information such as your birthdate and Social Security number. When someone applies for credit using your personal information, a lender or card issuer typically checks your credit before approving the credit. If your credit is frozen, the potential creditor cannot see the data required to approve the application.

You have to contact all three credit bureaus individually to get a freeze, which is the best protection for your credit files.


You can also unfreeze your credit within minutes of requesting it. Go to the credit bureau website and use the PIN or password you used to freeze your credit to unfreeze your credit.  

When you are applying for credit, you can ask the creditor which credit bureau it will use to check your credit and unfreeze only that one. Or, if you’re shopping for a loan and may make several applications in a short period, you may choose to lift the freeze at all three major credit bureaus. 

You can also choose to unfreeze for a specified time period, after which the freeze automatically resumes.


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

Credit freeze services are mandated by federal law and are free. A credit lock is an optional service a credit bureau may offer you for a fee, but it offers fewer legal protections than a freeze.

If you’re not actively shopping for a credit card or loan, freezing your credit is a good idea. Since freezing credit and unfreezing credit are free, you should consider doing so. 

A credit freeze makes your credit reports inaccessible to most people, with a few exceptions:

  • You can access your own records, including getting your free annual credit reports. 
  • Your current creditors still have access, as do debt collectors.
  • Marketers can see your credit reports for the purpose of sending you offers.
  • In certain circumstances, government or child support agencies can see them.
  • You can still give permission to an employer or potential employer to check your credit (though the version they see omits certain details).