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Freeze Your Credit Report To Protect Against ID Theft

Date Added: March 01, 2016 11:00 am

Security Freeze - Credit Report

Freeze Frequently Asked Questions

What is a security freeze? [ s.501.005(1)]
A security freeze is a notice that is placed in a consumer report (on request of the consumer) that prohibits a consumer reporting agency (such as Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) from releasing the consumer’s credit report, credit score or any information contained within the consumer report to a third party without the express authorization of the consumer. 
However the credit reporting agency can notify the third party that a security freeze has been placed on the consumer’s credit files.

How can I place a security freeze on my credit files? [ s.501.005(2),(4)]
In order to place a security freeze on your credit files, you must request the freeze with each of the three major credit reporting agencies ( Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) and any other credit reporting agency. All agencies are required to allow consumers to request security freezes via certified mail, however additional methods may be available. Please check with each credit reporting agency regarding its policies concerning security freezes.

Once a security freeze is in place, the credit reporting agency has 10 business days to mail you confirmation and your unique personal identification number (PIN) or password. The PIN or password will be used for authorization purposes for any changes made to your freeze status.

Is there a fee to place a security freeze on my credit files? [ s.501.005(13)(a - c)]
Maybe. The law allows a credit reporting agency (such as Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to assess up to a $10 fee to place, temporary lift or permanently remove a security freeze. However, the fee is waived if:

  • You are age 65 or older (the fee is waived for the initial placement or removal of the freeze).
  • You have been a victim of identity theft and have documentation stating such from a law enforcement agency.
  • Also if you lose your PIN or password, the credit reporting agency may also charge you up to $10 to replace or reissue your PIN or password.

How long does it take for a security freeze to take effect? [ s.501.005(3)]
Once the credit reporting agency receives your request via certified mail, they have five (5) business days to complete your request.

Can I open new accounts if my files are frozen? [ s.501.005(5)]
Yes. You can contact the credit reporting agency to have your freeze temporarily lifted (also known as thawing) for a designated period of time. The credit reporting agencies can asses a fee to do this, however some don’t. Please check with each credit reporting agency to determine its policies about temporarily lifting security freezes. 

How long does a security freeze last? [ s.501.005(11)]
A security freeze shall remain in place until you request it t to be removed.

How long does it take for a security freeze to be lifted? [ s.501.005(6)]
Once your request has been received to either temporarily or permanently remove the security freeze, the credit reporting agency has up to three (3) business days to comply with your request.

Can a creditor see my files if they are frozen? [ s.501.005(1)]
No.  As long as they are not exempted from the freeze by the statute. The only thing a creditor would see is a message or a code indicating that the files have been frozen.  Your report can still be released to your existing creditors, to collection agencies acting on their behalf, or to other exempt entities.

Examples of other exemptions would be: law enforcement agencies conducting a criminal background check or a current credit issuing entity such as a credit card company or financial institution. Please review s.501.005(12)(a - j), Florida Statutes, for a full list of exemptions.

Do I have to place a security freeze with every credit reporting agency? 
Yes. Different credit issuers may use different credit reporting agencies. If you want to freeze  your entire credit file you must place a security freeze with every credit reporting agency. Currently, there are three (3) major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

What are some of the disadvantages of having a security freeze? [ s.501.005(17)(b)]
You should be aware that using a security freeze to control access to your credit file may delay, interfere with, or prohibit you from acquiring the timely approval of loans, insurance, rental housing, government services, utilities, or other services including instant credit at a point of sale. 

If you wish to apply for a new credit account or other credit relationship, and the prospective lender or company needs to access your credit report, you will need to either remove or temporarily lift the Security Freeze unless the situation is one of those exempt from security freezes as defined by s.501.005, F.S.

Will a freeze lower my credit score?
No. Pre-existing creditors will still be able to report your credit behaviors. A credit freeze may hinder the timeliness for issuing new credit.

Is a “security freeze” and a “fraud alert” the same thing?
No.  A fraud alert is a special message on the report that a credit issuer receives when checking a consumer’s credit rating. It tells the credit issuer that there may be fraud involved in the account. A fraud alert can help protect you against identity theft. A fraud alert can also slow down your ability to get new credit. It should not stop you from using your existing credit cards or other accounts. A security freeze means that your credit file cannot be seen by potential creditors, or others accessing your credit, unless you give your consent. Most businesses will not open credit accounts without first checking a consumer’s credit history.

Are there any exemptions to the credit freeze? [ s.501.005(12)(15)]
Yes.  Please see the statute for a full list of exemptions.

Additional Resources
The links below are for your information only. The goal of the Division of Consumer Services is to provide additional information to consumers. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services does not review or confirm these sites for accuracy.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that regulates how credit reporting agencies use your information.
Here you will find information about Experian's policies and procedures on credit report security freezes.
Here you will find information about TransUnion's policies and procedures on credit report security freezes.

Information gathered from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Updated 07/17/2006

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