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When it comes to a credit freeze, consumers have to ask themselves when they should take this step, and why. The “when” is easy… the answer is NOW. There are very few reasons to leave your credit report unfrozen, all of them stemming from your life circumstances that involve high-volume spending, the need for new accounts or other similar, limited situations.

But “why”, is a little more difficult to explain. Your credit report is the document that gives lenders an idea of what kind of borrower you are. It contains lengthy information on your previous spending and payoffs, your open lines of credit, the amount of debt you carry, and more. However, this report is also the tool that lenders need in order to issue you a new account or line of credit; no report, no new credit card or car purchase.

It’s easy to see how blocking access to that report can prevent new lines of credit from being issued, and that goes a long way towards protecting you from fraud if someone steals or fabricates your identity. When the criminal applies for a new credit card, home utilities, a car or other similar account, the credit report will come back to the lender as “frozen,” essentially blocking the account.

This is one of the strongest measures consumers can take to help reduce their risk of financial identity theft. There are other ways your personally identifiable information fall into the wrong hands can harm you, but new account fraud is one of the easiest but most devastating scenarios. At the same time, there are not many other actionable steps consumers can take that can have this much of an impact on identity theft and fraud.

Remember when we said you should do it right now? There’s never been a better time. New legislation goes into effect this week that will remove the fees associated with freezing and thawing your credit report. Even though it takes time to “thaw” should you need it (a few business days, typically), you will no longer have to pay a fee for protecting your credit report this way. All three of the reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—will no longer charge this fee thanks to legislation that was passed after the Equifax data breach.

In order to freeze your credit, here are a few steps to take. While you handle that, remember that you’re also entitled to one free copy of your credit report from each of the three major reporting agencies every year. You don’t have to request them all at once, though, so you can stagger your requests a few months apart and get a look at your credit report all throughout the year.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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Info Sheet: Credit Freeze Laws for Protected Consumers 

To date, 33 states have passed laws for allowing consumers to place a freeze on credit reports for protected consumers.  The definition of a protected consumer differs by state but generally includes children under 18 years old or children under 16 years old, and any individual who has a legal guardian or conservator.  While most states allow you to place a freeze if a credit report already exists due to identity theft, the following 33 states will allow you to create a credit report for your child proactively when no credit report exists, then freeze it:

  1. Arkansas
  2. Arizona
  3. California
  4. Connecticut
  5. Delaware
  6. Florida
  7. Georgia
  8. Hawaii
  9. Illinois
  10. Indiana
  11. Iowa
  12. Kansas
  13. Kentucky
  14. Louisiana
  15. Maine
  16. Maryland
  17. Michigan
  18. Minnesota
  19. Montana
  20. Nebraska
  21. New York
  22. North Carolina
  23. Ohio
  24. Oregon
  25. South Carolina
  26. South Dakota
  27. Tennessee
  28. Texas
  29. Utah
  30. Virginia
  31. Vermont
  32. Washington
  33. Wisconsin

The National Conference of State Legislatures has a chart that lists each state and the corresponding laws/fees.  Please note that most states allow for no fees if the individual requesting a freeze (or his/her parent or guardian) can prove he/she is a victim of identity theft.  If you have questions about checking to see if your child has a credit report and how to freeze a report with each credit reporting agency, read our how-to here.

Due to Senate Bill 2155, as of September 21, 2018 residents in all 50 states will be able to place a credit freeze on their, and their child’s, credit report and request that a credit report for a protected consumer (which includes children under the age of 16) be created and frozen if a credit report does not exist.

This info sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to itrc@idtheftcenter.org. Copyright, Identity Theft Resource Center®, all rights reserved.