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If you live in California, you have the right to put a "security freeze" on your credit file. A security freeze means that your file cannot be shared with potential creditors. A security freeze can help prevent identity theft. Most businesses will not open credit accounts without first checking a consumer's credit history. If your credit files are frozen, even someone who has your name and Social Security number would probably not be able to get credit in your name.
To place a freeze, you must contact each of the three credit bureaus. You can request the freeze by mail. See the sample letters at the end of this sheet for addresses and what information to include.
You may also place the freeze online. Here are the freeze web pages for the credit bureaus. Note: If these links do not work, search "security freeze" on the credit bureau web sites.https://www.freeze.equifax.com
Starting September 21, 2018, you can freeze and unfreeze your credit file for free. You also can get a free freeze for your children who are under 16. And if you are someone’s guardian, conservator or have a valid power of attorney, you can get a free freeze for that person, too.
Yes. If you want to open a new credit account or get a new loan, you can lift the freeze on your credit file. You can lift it for a period of time. Or you can lift it for a specific creditor. After you contact the credit bureaus asking for the freeze, each credit bureau will send you a Personal Identification Number (PIN). You will also get instructions on how to lift the freeze by using your PIN. The credit bureaus must lift your freeze within three days.
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, insurance companies, or employers doing background checks – unless you give your consent. Most businesses will not open credit accounts without first checking a consumer's credit history.
Credit bureaus must place the freeze no later than three business days after receiving your written request.
Credit bureaus must lift a freeze no later than three business days after receiving your request.
A creditor will see a message or a code indicating that the file is frozen.
No. A creditor who requests your file from one of the three credit bureaus will only get a message or a code indicating that the file is frozen.
Yes. To order your free annual credit reports, see our How to Order Your Free Credit Reports. For Experian and TransUnion reports, use the regular procedures for ordering. For Equifax, order by mail using the form included in How to Order Your Free Credit Reports and also provide the PIN issued to you by Equifax when you freeze your file.
When you have a security freeze on your credit file, certain entities still have access to it. Your report can still be released to your existing creditors or to collection agencies acting on their behalf. They can use it to review or collect on your account. Other creditors may also use your information to make offers of credit – unless you opt out of receiving such offers. See below for how to opt out of pre-approved credit offers. Government agencies may have access for collecting child support payments or taxes or for investigating Medi-Cal fraud. Government agencies may also have access in response to a court or administrative order, a subpoena, or a search warrant.
Yes. Different credit issuers may use different credit bureaus. If you want to stop your credit file from being viewed, you need to freeze it with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
No. You would have to lift the freeze to allow a background check or to apply for insurance, just as you would to apply for credit. The process for lifting the freeze is described above.
No. You can stop the pre-approved credit offers by calling 888-5OPTOUT (567-8688). Or you can do this online at www.optoutprescreen.com. This will stop most of the offers, the ones that go through the credit bureaus. It’s good for five years or you can make it permanent.
Yes. Both spouses have to freeze their separate credit files, via separate requests, in order to get the benefit.
If you lose the PIN given to you by a credit bureau, send a letter to address on the sample letter attached to this sheet. Explain that you have lost your PIN and would like a new one. Provide your full name, address and Social Security number in the letter. Enclose a photocopy of your driver’s license or other government-issued photo ID.
The California law on security freeze is in the California Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act, at California Civil Code §§ 1785.11.2-1785.11.6 and 1785.15.
Sample Freeze Letter to Equifax
VTSD - Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348
I would like to place a security freeze on my Equifax credit file.My full name is:
[Your name and address]
Sample Freeze Letter to Experian
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
I would like to place a security freeze on my Experian credit file.My full name is:
[Your name and address]
1 Enclose a copy of a government issued identification card and a copy of a recent utility bill, bank statement, or insurance statement that displays your name, current mailing address, and the date of issue. Back to link 1
This fact sheet is for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice or as policy of the State of California. If you want advice on a particular case, you should consult an attorney or other expert. The fact sheet may be copied, if (1) the meaning of the copied text is not changed or misrepresented, (2) credit is given to the California Department of Justice, and (3) all copies are distributed free of charge.