The content is accurate at the time of publication and is subject to change.

A security freeze is a prevention tool available for use to protect yourself against identity theft. What it does is provide consumers with an opportunity to lock access to their credit file which prevents any outsiders from being able to utilize their identity to open a new account or apply for credit. Your files will remain frozen for as long as you wish, until you decide to lift the restriction. Placing a security freeze upon your credit account has no bearing on your overall credit score.

If anyone attempts to apply for credit by fraudulently using your name and there exists a security freeze on your information, the false application will be denied by the creditor, resulting in a thwarted identity theft attempt.

Identity theft is a potentially devastating financial crime that is rapidly growing in popularity. Although there are protective measures against identity-related fraud put into place by merchants, businesses, credit card companies and government agencies, it is not always adequate and thieves manage to commit around 8 million identity-related crimes within the United States alone on an annual basis.

Basically, a security freeze is designed to stop credit reporting agencies from releasing any portion of your credit report or personal information without first obtaining your consent. When you enact a security freeze upon your account, you will be issued a special password or unique ID number to use in order to authorize a temporary release of your credit report for a specific time period or to a specific inquirer once the freeze is in place. A security freeze is most effective when it is put into place at all of the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

In general, a freeze is not applicable to situations wherein a creditor with whom you have an existing relationship with requests a copy of your credit report. Likewise, should one of your existing creditors or an agent or affiliate thereof need access to your credit file for specific types of account review, fraud control, collection or something similar, it will be granted regardless of the freeze.

Implementing a security freeze against your account can possibly delay, prohibit or otherwise interfere with any applications for credit, loans, a mortgage, etc. that you submit yourself. If you wish to seek credit while there is a security freeze in place upon your credit file, you should make sure to lift it before submitting an application to ensure a timely reponse. If you will be applying for credit from multiple issuers, it may be a good idea to lift the freeze entirely. Otherwise, you can always opt to lift the freeze for the specific creditor from whom you are requesting credit.