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Why Is My Credit Frozen If I Didn’t Freeze It?

System errors, file mixups, data breaches, or even identity theft may be why your credit is frozen without you initiating it.

System errors, file mixups, data breaches, or even identity theft may be why your credit is frozen without you initiating it.

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      How To Check If Your Credit Is Frozen

      To find out if your credit is frozen, you need to access each of your credit reports individually with the three major credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.

      Credit freezes aren’t universal, so one of your credit files may be frozen while the others remain unlocked.

      AnnualCreditReport.com is a centralized portal that lets you request free credit reports once a week for free. You can use it to view your credit reports regardless of whether or not there’s a freeze in place [*]. If there is a freeze on any of your reports, there should be a statement indicating this.

      You can also check for a freeze with the bureaus directly. This process is different for each credit bureau:

      With Experian

      • Via Experian Support. You can call Experian at 888-397-3742 to check if your file is frozen. You’ll be prompted to input your Social Security number (SSN) and may be asked for additional information to verify your identity, such as your ZIP code.
      • Using a free Experian account. Create an account with Experian’s Security Freeze Center to check and manage your account status for free. Hover over your profile icon and select Help Center from the drop-down menu. Then, under Quick actions, click on Manage security freeze. The position of the toggle will indicate whether there’s a freeze on your account.

      With TransUnion

      • Via TransUnion Service Center. The easiest way to check your account’s freeze status is by logging in to the TransUnion Service Center. From there, navigate to the Credit Freeze tab to see your account’s freeze status.
      • By phone. You can also check the status of your TransUnion file by calling 800-916-8800. You’ll have to follow the automated prompts and go through a verification process before finding out if your account is frozen.

      With Equifax

      • Via myEquifax. Log in to your myEquifax account to check if your file is frozen. Under Equifax Credit Report Status you’ll find a statement that lets you know whether or not a freeze is in place. 
      • By phone. If you don’t have an Equifax account, call 888-298-0045 and verify your identity to check your freeze status. This verification process could involve answering questions based on your Equifax credit information or receiving a one-time PIN via text.

      If You Didn’t Freeze Your Credit, But It’s Frozen:

      If you find out that one or more of your credit files are frozen, but you didn’t initiate a freeze request, it’s certainly cause for concern.

      These are some of the most common reasons your credit might have been frozen without your knowledge:

      1. System errors

      If your credit was frozen without you initiating it, there’s a good chance it’s the result of a simple error made to your identifying information such as your name, address, or phone number.

      You should review the information in your file and contact the bureau in question if you notice that something is incorrect [*].

      📚 Related: How To Remove Hard Inquiries From Your Credit Report

      2. File mix-ups

      Credit file mix-ups can sometimes occur if you share an address or have a similar name to another person.

      This is known as a mixed credit file and happens when more than one person’s information is unintentionally combined in a credit bureau’s system. If there’s activity on your credit report that you don’t recognize, such as a security freeze, it could indicate a mixed credit file.

      3. Identity theft or fraud

      Identity thieves typically thaw credit so they can use it to take out unauthorized loans and credit cards. In one instance, a fraudster unfroze a California man’s Experian file and used it to apply for multiple new credit lines using the man’s identity [*].

      But any unprompted freezes should also raise alarms. If your credit is unexpectedly frozen, there’s a possibility that scammers are trying to cover up their tracks after obtaining new lines of credit in your name.

      4. Data breaches

      If any company that has your SSN is the victim of a data breach — including credit bureaus — identity thieves could gain access to your credit accounts, use your SSN to apply for new loans in your name, or even initiate freezes and/or thaws.

      In the event of a breach, credit bureaus strongly advise that you freeze your credit — but freezes are never automatically applied.

      So if you notice one or more of your files are frozen after a breach, this should raise alarms.

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      Steps To Unfreeze Your Credit

      The most common ways to unfreeze your credit are by doing so online or by calling the bureau’s customer service line. You can also send a removal request via mail; this takes longer to process.

      While it’s relatively simple to unfreeze your own credit, the process is more in-depth if you’re acting on behalf of your child or an incapacitated adult. To thaw a protected consumer’s credit, the bureaus require you to mail the following [*]:

      • Written request to thaw the credit file.
      • Piece of documentation that proves you have the authority to act on behalf of the individual, like a birth certificate or power of attorney.
      • Copies of documentation that verify your identity and the minor/dependent’s identity, such as copies of both of your Social Security cards.

      Free credit freezes and removals are available to all U.S. consumers under the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act [*].

      • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) mandates that the bureaus must remove a freeze within an hour if you request a thaw electronically or by phone.
      • If sent via mail, the freeze must be lifted within three business days after the request is received.

      If you choose to thaw your credit, you don’t have to do so permanently. You can request a temporary thaw that allows lenders to access your credit reports only within a time frame that you specify. Temporary thaws are useful if you want to apply for new credit but don’t want your file to be left open indefinitely.

      Here’s how you can request a thaw at each bureau:

      Unfreeze your credit with Experian

      • Online: If you have an Experian account, log in to the Security Freeze Center and navigate to the Help Center. Click on Manage security freeze and then toggle the freeze status to Unfrozen in order to lift the freeze.
      • By phone: To request a lift via phone, call 888-397-3742 and follow the automated prompts. You do not need a PIN to manage your Experian freeze status [*].
      • By mail: You can mail a removal request to Experian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013. You should include your full name, Social Security number, date of birth, and current address.

      Unfreeze your credit with TransUnion

      • Online: Log in to the TransUnion Service Center and navigate to the Credit Freeze tab.some text
        • Click on Remove Freeze to permanently remove the freeze.
        • Click on Temporarily Lift Freeze to unfreeze your credit for a specified date range.
      • By phone: You can initiate a TransUnion thaw by calling 800-916-8800. You no longer need a six-digit PIN to manage your freeze over the phone or by mail [*].
      • By mail: Requests to thaw your TransUnion report can be mailed to TransUnion, P.O. Box 160, Woodlyn, PA 19094. Include identifying information such as your full name, Social Security number, date of birth, and current address.

      Unfreeze your credit with Equifax

      • Online: Visit myEquifax and log in to your account.
      • By phone: You can call 888-298-0045 to unfreeze your credit with Equifax. In order to verify your identity, you’ll need to provide information about your Equifax file or receive a one-time PIN sent to your mobile device. Under your credit report status, click on Manage a freeze. Before submitting the request, you’ll be able to select whether you want a temporary lift or a permanent removal. 
      • By mail: Send your removal request to Equifax Information Services LLC, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348-5788. To verify your identity, be sure to include your full name and date of birth, Social Security number, and current address.

      Other FAQs

      What’s a fraud alert?

      A fraud alert is a notice placed on your credit reports that alerts lenders that you may have been a victim of identity theft or fraud. Placing a fraud alert at any one of the three credit reporting agencies automatically initiates notices to your credit files at the other two bureaus.

      While a credit freeze prevents anyone — even you — from opening new credit accounts, a fraud alert nudges credit card and loan companies to take additional steps to verify your identity before extending you credit.

      📚 Related: Fraud Alert vs. Credit Freeze: Which Is Better & How To Choose

      Does a credit freeze stop soft inquiries?

      Credit freezes typically only prevent hard inquiry credit checks. Soft inquiries, sometimes called soft pulls, may still be performed by existing creditors, insurance providers, and credit card companies sending you pre-screening offers.

      Can a credit freeze bring down your credit score?

      You can initiate a security freeze with any of the three major credit bureaus with no impact to your credit score [*].

      If anything, a credit freeze can prevent score decreases that come from hard inquiries by blocking them. However, it doesn’t prevent changes to your score that derive from your payment or credit history, among other factors.

      Can you have both a credit lock and freeze at the same time?

      Generally, you can’t lock and freeze your credit files at the same time. If you want to lock a credit file that’s frozen, you’ll need to thaw your account before you’re able to do so.

      However, Experian does make it possible to initiate both a lock and a freeze on your Experian credit file [*]. But it’s not necessary, as both of these services achieve the same purpose: preventing identity thieves from obtaining unauthorized credit in your name.

      ⚠️ Take action: Aura’s digital security solution has been rated #1 by Money.com, Tech Radar, Forbes, USA Today, and more. Try Aura free for 14 days to keep your identity safe.

      How Aura Can Help

      You’ll need to thaw your credit in order to apply for things like a mortgage, auto loan, or new credit card — leaving you vulnerable to identity theft while your accounts are unfrozen.

      Investing in a credit monitoring service is a good fallback if you want to protect your identity while allowing lenders to access your reports.

      With Aura, you get 24/7 credit monitoring and fraud alerts with all three bureaus. If there are any changes or suspicious activity found on your reports, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’ll receive near-instant alerts.

      Keep your credit strong (and safe). Try Aura free for 14 days

      Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you to increase awareness about digital safety. Aura’s services may not provide the exact features we write about, nor may cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat discussed in our articles. Please review our Terms during enrollment or setup for more information. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime.

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