Placing a credit freeze with the three credit bureaus limits access to your credit report and prevents identity thieves from opening new accounts in your name. Here’s how to freeze your TransUnion credit report.
Identity theft is a leading worry for Americans, with 63% of people surveyed saying it’s their top security fear.
Although hackers are increasingly adept at evading security measures, there are ways to protect yourself if you’re concerned about your finances or know you’ve been a victim of a data breach. Placing a credit freeze with the three credit bureaus limits access to your credit report and prevents identity thieves from opening new accounts in your name.
When someone applies for a credit card or loan in your name, your file is flagged as frozen and the credit bureau won’t release your information to the creditor. The would-be thief is then denied for the account.
See related: Credit freeze vs. credit lock vs. credit monitoring
TransUnion credit freeze: How it works, pros and cons
When you should freeze your credit
If you think your personal information was exposed in a data breach or have other reasons to believe you’re at risk, a credit freeze helps you gain control of the situation. You’ll need to file a freeze request with all three credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.
In this article, we’ll cover the credit freezing process with TransUnion.
How to do a TransUnion credit freeze
You can freeze your credit through the TransUnion website.
- First, you’ll need to create an account by filling out a brief online form with your name, address, birth date and the last four digits of your Social Security number.
- After verifying your account, you can log in and place a freeze on your credit.
- You can also file a dispute through your TransUnion account if you’ve already seen suspicious activity on your credit report.
Perhaps it’s not your credit that’s been compromised, but rather a loved one’s. You can request a TransUnion credit freeze for your husband, wife or any of your children who are under 15.
If you have power of attorney (POA) for someone, such as a parent or another relative, you can freeze their credit as well. However, you’ll have to call TransUnion directly to freeze your spouse’s credit, and you’ll need to mail in several verification documents if you need to place a freeze for your child. If you have POA for another adult, you can freeze their credit over the phone.
In cases where fraudsters are opening accounts under a deceased loved one’s name, you can submit their death certificate to their creditors, who will then update their files. You can’t place a freeze on their credit, but if the file reads deceased, it will block thieves from opening accounts using their information.
Pros of freezing your credit
The biggest benefit of freezing your credit is that it stops malicious actors from using your name and Social Security number to open new financial accounts that could seriously harm your credit and ability to borrow.
Another bonus is that freezing your credit does not affect your score, so you can stay safe without your creditworthiness taking a hit. Although freezes used to carry a fee, they are now free to initiate, so you aren’t losing money by protecting your finances and your identity.
A freeze doesn’t interfere with any accounts you already have, so you can continue using your credit cards as usual. However, even your existing creditors won’t be able to open new accounts for you while the freeze is in place.
Cons of freezing your credit
The most substantial drawback of a credit freeze is that you won’t be able to open new credit cards or apply for a loan while it’s in effect. If you need, say, an auto loan or want to apply for a new rewards card right away, a freeze will prevent you from doing so. Fortunately, you can lift the freeze temporarily and then immediately request another one.
The Federal Trade Commission notes that you can ask the prospective creditor which bureau they use to pull your credit so you only need to lift and replace the freeze with one of them. TransUnion allows you to schedule a temporary freeze through your online account. You can schedule the freeze up to 15 days in advance and specify how long you want it suspended.
Another downside is that requesting a credit freeze with one bureau doesn’t apply to them all. Once you’ve placed a freeze with TransUnion, you’ll need to repeat the process with Equifax and Experian. And once you’re ready to use your credit again, you’ll need to unfreeze your credit with each of them. The upside is that the freeze will be lifted within an hour if you request it over the phone or online, according to the FTC.
Credit freezes aren’t catchall. The FTC cautions that if someone has your existing credit card information, they can use it to make fraudulent purchases even if there is a freeze on opening new accounts. That’s why it’s important to review your account transactions regularly or to set up alerts every time an expense is charged to that card.
How to unfreeze your credit
Once you’re ready to unfreeze your credit, you can simply log in to the TransUnion website and request that it be removed. You can also call the company directly and remove the freeze over the phone.
Other ways to stay safe
If you’ve already seen suspicious activity on your credit cards, call your creditors immediately and report the fraudulent charges. They can cancel your existing cards and freeze the account until your new cards arrive in the mail.
Time is of the essence, especially if someone has gotten access to a debit card or login information for your checking account. Review all of your financial accounts and set up alerts for all activity so you will know as soon as someone tries to use your credit cards or withdraw your money.
TransUnion also recommends changing your passwords on all financial accounts, as well as freezing all activity if you know you’ve been part of a data breach.
If you don’t want to freeze your credit but want an extra layer of safety, you can set up a free fraud alert through TransUnion. Unlike a credit freeze, TransUnion will send the alert to the other credit bureaus, saving you some time. Then, any time a lender receives an application in your name, they will call you to verify that you’re the one opening the account.
Even with a credit freeze, vigilance is key. Check your accounts regularly, sign up for transaction alerts and act quickly if you find out you’ve been a victim of a data breach. Swift, preventive measures will help you protect your data and your money.