When Should I Unfreeze My Credit?

Credit Freeze

In 2017, Equifax, one of the three major credit bureaus in the U.S., experienced a major data breach. Millions of people were using Equifax to monitor their credit at the time, and the data breach left them all vulnerable to credit fraud. To help alleviate the damage, or at least as a stopgap measure, Equifax placed all of these accounts under a credit freeze.

It’s important to first understand what a credit freeze does. When your credit is frozen, it means that no one can use your credentials to open any kind of new account that requires a credit check, such as a credit cards or loans. No one can even see your credit report, except for debt collectors acting on behalf of entities to whom you are already indebted, and certain government agencies. A credit freeze does not change any of your existing credit or loan repayment terms. You will still be required to make payments as usual on any debts you owe, including credit card debt. Your credit score can still change during this time as well. Unfortunately, there’s no way to freeze your credit score.

During this time, you will also be prohibited from opening any new accounts, as credit bureaus have no real way of knowing with absolute certainty that it’s you opening the account, and not someone who bought your information off of the dark Web. In most states, a credit freeze is indefinite (though it can be temporarily or permanently lifted by you alone), and in some states, it expires on its own after seven years.

When should I lift my credit freeze?

When your credit is frozen, you are still able to open new accounts, but you will have a special personal identification number (PIN) or password to do so. That means that if you apply for a new job or rental home, for example, those who need to know your credit history will be able to access it safely, either with a password or by having you temporarily lift the freeze.

Lifting the credit freeze for good may not serve you well right now, especially if your information was compromised in the Equifax data breach. If you choose to do so, however, make sure to enroll in credit fraud alerts from one of the major credit bureaus (it’s currently free from Equifax to all U.S. residents for one year) or from a third-party credit monitoring company.

A credit freeze will not affect your life too drastically. It will allow you to have some peace of mind that those who are trying to open accounts with your information will be unable to do so until the freeze is lifted or expires.

If you have concerns about your credit, or if you’ve been working on credit repair after identity theft, visit www.creditrepair.com for more information about protecting yourself and your financial reputation.

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