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When and Why Should You Freeze Your Credit?

As time and technology evolve, so do fraudsters’ tactics to take advantage of the vulnerable. This poses a concern for many who are looking for better ways to protect their financial information. A credit freeze may be a good way to prevent identity theft, but keep in mind that it’s not always the best solution and that you’re still susceptible to other forms of fraud. It’s a good idea to continue exercising caution in other ways to avoid falling victim to scams. 

Just a friendly reminder that if you have frozen your credit, you’ll need to lift the freeze ahead of time before submitting an application for a loan or a line of credit to ensure a smoother process.  

What is a credit freeze?

A credit freeze (or security freeze) blocks creditors, lenders, and almost all other third parties, from pulling your credit report or credit score without your permission. You’ll still be able to make credit card purchases and loan payments. 

Keep in mind that some organizations can still access your frozen credit reports, such as credit monitoring services, debt collectors, and certain governmental agencies. 

Why freeze your credit?

A credit freeze makes it nearly impossible for fraudsters to open accounts under your name. It’s still a good idea to protect your personal and financial information in other ways too because credit freezes aren’t a form of “blanket protection” from all forms of fraud, such as tax or insurance fraud. So, it’s still a good idea to protect your sensitive personal and financial information, such as your Social Security number and credit card information. 

Will a credit freeze affect my credit score?

No, a credit freeze will not affect your credit score. Unfortunately, it often delays the application process for obtaining financing with lenders, as credit checks are usually a requirement. 

You will still be able to access your records and get your free annual credit report from from each of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

When it’s a good idea to freeze your credit

While every person’s financial situation and personal preferences are different, and this list isn’t exhaustive, here are some scenarios where it makes the most sense to freeze your credit: 
  • You’ve been a victim of identity theft
  • Your personal or financial information, such as a credit card number, has been tampered with or stolen, either by mail or online
  • Your personal or financial information has been compromised by a data breach
  • You’re planning to leave the country for an extended amount of time 

When you should not freeze your credit or should lift the credit freeze

Here are some scenarios when you should have your credit available to access:
  • You’re planning to apply for a loan or line of credit
  • You’re planning to apply for an apartment 
  • You’re expecting a potential employer to run a credit check on you
  • You’re about to apply for insurance, a cell phone plan, or utilities account

How to Freeze your Credit

While you can make a request to freeze an account by phone or by mail, the fastest option is to submit the request online with each of the three credit bureaus. Online requests only take about an hour for the credit freeze to go into effect. 

The best part—it’s free to freeze and unfreeze your credit with all three bureaus!

Be prepared to provide the credit bureaus with your full name, current address and previous addresses for the past 2 years, date of birth, Social Security number, proof of identity documentation, and proof of address documentation. 

Here’s where to submit the request with each bureau (information is subject to change), which you’ll need to do with each bureau individually:

If you’re requesting a credit freeze by phone or mail, it can take up to three business days to take effect upon the bureau receiving the request. 

How to Freeze Credit for a Minor

Most minors do not have existing credit files, but it’s understandable if you’d like to check if they have one or add a security freeze for them to help prevent them from becoming a victim of fraud. 

The three credit bureaus only allow security freeze requests for minors by mail. The requirements vary: 

Teens between the ages of 15-18 can start building credit at Space Coast Credit Union (SCCU) with a Visa® Student credit card, which requires a joint account holder who is a parent or legal guardian.  

How to Unfreeze Your Credit

To lift or remove a credit freeze, you will need to contact each credit bureau online, by phone, or by mail. You’re also able to select dates for a temporary lift in advance. Again, online requests take about an hour and mail/phone requests can take around three business days to go into effect.  

To remove your credit freeze with TransUnion by phone or mail, you’ll need to provide the unique 6-digit PIN that you made when you froze the credit.

Alternatives to a Credit Freeze

Although a security freeze is an effective way to mitigate the risk of being a credit fraud victim, it may be best to consider different alternatives in some situations. If you simply want to protect your credit, you are better off setting fraud alerts as opposed to freezing your credit. 

  • Fraud Alerts: A fraud alert will not prevent creditors from accessing your credit report; it will instead ask lenders to verify identity whenever attempts are made to open accounts under your name, which may slow the approval process, so if you’re planning on obtaining new financing you may not want to freeze your credit until afterwards. 
  • 2Way Text Fraud Alerts: SCCU uses 2Way Text Fraud Alerts, where we notify members immediately by text upon detecting possible fraudulent activity on their account. 
  • Account Alerts: You’re also more than welcome to set up account alerts in your Online or Mobile Banking account. You can set up transaction alerts, balance alerts, and more to make sure you’re in the know with what’s happening with your account. 
  • Card ControlsYou can download the Card Controls companion app, available through the SCCU Mobile app, to monitor card activity and turn cards “on” or “off” if you believe your card has been lost, stolen, or misplaced. 
  • Fraud Education: Arming yourself with fraud prevention knowledge will help you stop fraud in its tracks. Check out our fraud prevention center page that provides more information on SCCU security measures, quick tips, and infographics. We also have several fraud prevention articles. Our monthly Watchdog Report eNewsletter also provides a monthly fraud prevention tip. 
  • Travel TipsSee our travel tips page for more information about how to set up a travel notice at SCCU and how to keep your financial information safe while traveling. 

More about Space Coast Credit Union

SCCU is the third-largest credit union in Florida. As long as you live or work in one of these 34 counties in Florida, you can become a member with a $5 deposit in a Regular Savings account. We offer a financial suite of checking and savings accounts, home loans, car loans, credit cards, and Online and Mobile Banking.  

We will never solicit personal or account information through phone, text, email, or other means that a member did not first initiate. If you receive such a request, please do not engage, and reach out to us with a separate phone call at 800-447-7228. 
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