In 2017, there were 1,579 data breaches, a 44 percent increase over a record-setting number the previous year. To protect themselves, people were advised to take precautions. One option that you may have chosen to implement is a credit report security freeze, which makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open accounts in your name.
If potential creditors try to run a credit report when a freeze is in place, they will be notified that the credit profile has been frozen, preventing them from obtaining the information necessary to extend new credit. Keep in mind, most potential creditors will not extend new credit if they cannot access a credit report.
A recent development related to credit freezes comes with the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act. A provision in this new law, which went into effect on Sept. 21, 2018, made some changes dictating consumer credit rules including banishing fees for adding and lifting security freezes.
If you froze your credit report in response to a data breach, here are three things you should know, according to Trevor Buxton, fraud communications manager and Certified Fraud Examiner with PNC Bank.
A security freeze remains active until you lift it. Designed to stop the identity thieves from opening accounts and racking up credit in your name, a freeze has a similar impact on you. So you’ll need to take a few steps before you apply for a new line of credit, including car loans, mortgages and new credit cards. You can:
- Provide the creditor with the PIN you were given by the bureau to use when requesting your report; or
- Contact the credit bureau to temporarily or permanently lift the security freeze.
Some can access your report despite the freeze. Certain government agencies, courts and private companies can access your credit report, even under a security freeze. This includes organizations with which you already have a business relationship, companies to which you owe money, and collection agencies. Such bypasses are considered soft inquiries and will not affect your credit score.
Lifting a freeze at one credit bureau, doesn’t lift it at all bureaus. You must lift the freeze at each bureau individually. Now U.S. consumers with existing security freezes will no longer have to pay fees to remove or re-enable the freeze. In most cases, you can request a permanent lift of a security freeze by phone, in writing or online. You can find out each bureau's process using the information below:
- Equifax: 800-685-1111 (New York residents call 800-349-9960)
- Experian: 888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 800-680-7289
Did you know? Security freezes won't protect you from:
- Fraud on existing credit and debit cards
- IRS tax refund fraud and identity theft
- Opening unauthorized bank accounts in your name
- Opening other accounts with creditors that do not require a credit report