A credit freeze or security freeze is a method by which a consumer blocks access to their credit report. The primary purpose is to prevent lenders from accessing their report, which prohibits identity thieves from obtaining credit in the consumer's name.
In order to freeze your credit, contact each of the three major credit companies, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian, by phone. You will be required to supply your name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number, and, depending on what state you live in, will be required to pay a small fee of $5 to $10. Contacting credit reporting companies by phone to initiate a freeze is considered to be more secure than initiating the freeze online.
If you institute a credit freeze on your report, you will still able to open new credit accounts and take other actions resulting in credit checks, but you must temporarily remove the freeze to grant lenders access to your credit reports. A credit freeze does not block you from receiving a yearly free credit report. Freezing your credit will deter identity theft, but it is not a guarantee that your information is secure.
A credit freeze differs slightly from a fraud report. While a credit freeze makes it impossible for creditors to access your credit report without you lifting the freeze, a fraud report lets creditors access your report after verifying your identity. If you put a fraud alert on your credit report, the creditor may take steps such as calling you to ensure that you requested the credit check. This prevents thieves from opening new accounts in your name, but does not stop the illegal use of your already open accounts.