My Credit Was Frozen By Mistake, What Do I Do?
If you find yourself asking, “how do I unfreeze my credit,” here are some steps you can take to unfreeze your credit and apply for a new loan or credit card.
August 23, 2021
Your credit report contains detailed information about your credit accounts, payment history and various matters of public record that are meaningful to lenders. A credit report is the basis for your credit score and ultimately determines what type of accounts and interest rates you’re eligible to receive.
A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, restricts access to your reports and prevents credit bureaus from releasing the data to third parties. A freeze can be beneficial in some cases, but if it happens by mistake or goes on for longer than you’d like, it can also be problematic.
This guide will explain why your credit might be frozen and show you how to reverse an unintended or unnecessary credit freeze.
Why is my credit frozen?
Consumers have the right to freeze their credit with any of the three major credit bureaus at any time — for free. You’d typically freeze your credit if you were concerned about identity theft or some other fraudulent activity occurring with your credit.
For example, if you were to receive a fraud alert from a credit reporting agency, you might decide to freeze your account to prevent someone from opening up a credit card under your name.
Generally, only you can freeze your credit. One exception is that a parent or guardian can freeze the credit report of their dependents under the age of 16. If you went to apply for your first credit account only to learn your credit was frozen without you having requested it, it could be that your parents did so in your youth and never unfroze it.
If that’s not what happened, you’re probably wondering, “how did my credit get frozen?” In this case, the freeze could be a mistake on behalf of the credit bureau, though they wouldn’t typically initiate a credit freeze without your consent (even to protect your identity). It’s also unlikely that anyone would steal your identity only to freeze your credit, because they wouldn’t be able to utilize your credit while it’s frozen.
How to check if your credit is frozen
Experian, TransUnion and Equifax allow consumers to check the status of their credit accounts either online or via telephone. If you have an account set up with them, you can check your credit status online at any time.
If you decide to call in to check, you’ll be prompted to verify your identity by providing personal identification information such as your Social Security number.
How do I unfreeze my credit?
Each of the three major credit bureaus functions independently from the rest. So, if you’re wondering, “how do I unfreeze my credit,” you might consider contacting each of the bureaus individually. You’ll have the option to permanently lift your freeze or do so temporarily to allow yourself time to apply for credit.
If your credit was frozen by mistake and you don’t have a Personal Identification Number (PIN) yet, you’ll usually need to request one before you can unfreeze your credit. Fortunately, it’s a relatively painless (and free) process.
Here’s how to unfreeze (or “thaw”) your frozen credits at each of the three credit bureaus:
Experian’s Security Freeze Center lets you manage your freezes online in one convenient place. You can request or retrieve your 10-digit PIN through their portal by providing your name, Social Security number and address. Once you have it, you can initiate or reverse freezes there, too.
If you prefer not to use online methods, you can call Experian at (888) 397-3742 or send your formal written request to Experian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013.
Written requests should include your:
Full legal name
Social Security number
Addresses for the past two years
Date of birth
Copy of a government-issued identification card (driver’s license or state ID card)
Copy of a utility bill, bank or insurance statement
It’s wise to ensure anything written by hand is legible and that you only send document copies, not originals.
TransUnion also allows consumers to manage their freezes online at its Service Center, including unfreezing credit.
If you prefer to initiate your thaw over the phone, you can do so by calling TransUnion at (888) 909-8872. You can send your written requests to TransUnion at P.O. Box 160 Woodlyn, PA 19094, and include the same documents listed above to prove your identity.
Whichever method you use, you’ll be prompted to set up a 6-digit PIN with the bureau before you can make changes to the status of your account.
Equifax lets consumers manage its freezes online as well, but it doesn’t require a PIN. You’d simply create an account, prove your identity and manage your report like you would with the others.
If you wish to give Equifax a call instead, you can reach the credit bureau at (888) 298-0045. Written requests would include a formal request form and documents to prove your identity.
Other frequently asked questions
What does it mean if your credit is frozen?
If your credit is frozen, it means that many third parties will no longer be able to access your credit report. This includes lenders, which would prevent you from applying for most forms of credit. Some parties may still be able to access it, such as your existing creditors, government agencies and landlords running a background check.
How long does a credit freeze last?
A credit freeze will continue until you decide to reverse it. If you do unfreeze your account, you can opt for the unfreeze to be permanent or for a limited period to give yourself time to apply to your desired credit accounts.
How long does it take to unfreeze my credit?
Once you have your PIN, you can unfreeze your credit instantly online. If you call a bureau to make the request, it will likely go through as soon as the representative initiates the change. Either way, you might want to allow up to an hour before applying for a credit account to be safe.
If you make your request through the mail, it may take up to three days to see results. The Federal Trade Commission will penalize them if they take longer.
What happens after the thaw?
Once your credit is officially unfrozen, you can get back to navigating your personal finances. If you’re trying to manage credit card debt, consider Tally. Tally is a credit card payoff app that can put you in the driver’s seat by consolidating your card payments into one monthly bill, making paying off debt easier and more efficient.