When to Freeze Your Credit File

As the rate of identity theft rises in the United States, many people choose to place a freeze on their credit file if they believe their personal information has been stolen.

What a Security Freeze Does and Doesn’t Do

When you place a security freeze on your credit file, a credit bureau cannot access your credit history. This means that no one can open a new account in your name or receive new credit in your name, since creditors are unable to access your file. A freeze only protects you from new account fraud.

A security freeze does not prevent misuse of existing bank or credit accounts. It does not protect you from existing account fraud. If a thief already has account information, they can continue to misuse the account even in the event of a freeze. You must check your bank statements and balances to ensure that you’re not a victim of existing account fraud.

Should I Place a Security Freeze?

Placing a security freeze on your credit file helps give you peace of mind that your finances are secure against theft and new account fraud. If you want or need to place a freeze on your credit file, you must do so with each of the three main consumer reporting agencies.

People place a freeze on their credit file for many reasons. If any of the following statements apply to you, you may want to consider it.
  • I do not plan to open any new credit accounts in the near future.
  • I suspect that I’ve recently been a victim of identity theft.
  • I’ve had my identity stolen in the past.
  • I suspect that mail containing personal or financial information has been stolen.
  • I gave an untrustworthy source my banking personal identification number (PIN) or Social Security number (SSN).
  • I’ve been contacted by a debt collector for a debt that I am unaware of and never initiated.
  • I’d like to take a precautionary measure against identity theft and the resulting amount of time I’d have to spend correcting my credit file and affected account(s).
You should not place a security freeze on your credit file if:
  • you plan to set up a new credit account in the future, or if you often use instant credit.
  • you are moving and will need to switch service providers (they may need to check your credit).
Other Ways to Protect Yourself

Before, during, or following a security freeze, continue to protect your personal and financial information in the following ways:
  • only use your personal computer to enter private information with trusted websites.
  • never carry personal identification numbers, such as your Social Security Card or your PIN, in your wallet.
  • only interact with and buy products from reputable companies or agencies.
  • use a disposable credit card to make online purchases.