Jump to content

Credit freeze

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A credit freeze (also known as a security freeze) allows an individual to control how a consumer reporting agency (also known as a credit bureau such as Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and Innovis) is able to sell personal financial identity data.[1] The credit freeze locks the data at the consumer reporting agency until the individual gives permission for the release of the data.[2][3][4][5]

Typically, consumer reporting agencies only develop such a feature when prompted to by legislation. In Canada, this has led to TransUnion and Equifax not offering any form of credit freeze (instead directing consumers to their paid identity monitoring services, which have been described as 'ineffective'), until the passage of Quebec's Bill 53, the Credit Assessment Agents Act.[6][7]

Lifting a credit freeze requires a PIN.[8] However, in September 2017, a security vulnerability in this system was identified: the PIN is in many cases guessable, and difficult or impossible to reset.[9] Freezing one's credit will not prevent the credit score from changing. Existing companies with access to one's credit profile can still report positive and negative feedback on a credit profile, meaning if the credit profile is frozen, one's credit can still go up or down.[10]



The first jurisdiction in Canada to legislatively provide for credit freezes was Quebec, with the passage of Bill 53 (the Credit Assessment Agents Act). Starting in February 2023, Quebec residents can place a freeze.[11] As of February 2021, Ontario was considering changes to its Consumer Reporting Act that would provide for credit freezes.[12]

United States


All 50 states and the District of Columbia have a credit freeze law, the last state to pass such a law being Michigan in 2018.[13][14][15][16]

The first state to pass a credit freeze law was California, with SB 1386 sponsored by Debra Bowen in 2002, effective 2003.[17] In late 2007, all three of the major credit bureaus (following TransUnion's lead) announced that they would let consumers freeze their credit reports, regardless of the state of residency.[18] State laws still apply, however, in instances where the cost or other details of the freeze are more favorable than they are under the industry-sponsored alternative.

Credit freezes are frequently viewed as the most effective way to prevent financial identity theft. Each year in the United States, approximately 15 percent of all cases of identity theft are cases of new account origination identity theft, according to the Federal Trade Commission.[19] This form of identity theft occurs when a criminal opens credit in another individual's name. In the credit origination process, access to a credit report is critical for a lender to make a risk assessment. Because a credit freeze effectively stops any access to the credit report, it places a block in the process of issuing credit. Individuals who freeze their credit reports must therefore unfreeze their reports before they wish to apply for credit themselves.[citation needed] However, these can be avoided with proper preplanning. With proper documentation, most individuals should be able to unfreeze your credit scores with all three bureaus within 15 to 20 minutes. Generally, electronic unfreezing process takes effect immediately.

A credit freeze can also be placed on the credit file with The National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange (NCTUE) in order to limit fraud through a bad actor creating a utilities account in some else's name.[20]

Federal preemption of state laws


In 2018 the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, was passed which includes a provision to preempt state laws replacing the large variation of state laws with a federal one that requires all credit freeze to be free of charge. The law is effective September 21, 2018 at which point the credit bureaus will no longer be able to charge for a freeze and a request must be completed within one business day if made online or via phone. They will have three business days to comply with a request if received via mail.[21]


  1. ^ Combley, Roz (2011). Cambridge Business English Dictionary. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 191. ISBN 978-052-112250-4. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  2. ^ "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Security Freeze — Krebs on Security". krebsonsecurity.com. 8 June 2015. Retrieved 20 June 2023.
  3. ^ Lamberg, Erica; Kim, Paul (6 December 2022). "How to freeze your credit". Business Insider. Retrieved 20 June 2023.
  4. ^ Lukic, David (5 August 2020). "Credit Freeze vs. Lock: What's the Difference?". idstrong.com. Retrieved 20 June 2023.
  5. ^ Singer, Adam (11 October 2022). "My Identity Has Been Stolen! What Do I Do Now?". Forbes. Retrieved 20 June 2023.
  6. ^ Cowley, Jenny (22 February 2019). "Credit freezes are one easy way to protect against identity fraud — but they're not available in Canada". CBC News. Archived from the original on 2019-02-22.
  7. ^ "Equifax Canada Set to Release Freeze Designator Code in Q4 2022". www.truescreen.com. 1 November 2021. Retrieved 2022-01-11.
  8. ^ Robertson, Adi (8 September 2017). "Can you join a class action suit if you use Equifax's free identity theft protection?". Theverge.com. Retrieved 20 June 2023.
  9. ^ Lieber, Ron (10 September 2017). "After Equifax Breach, Here's Your Next Worry: Weak PINs". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 June 2023.
  10. ^ "What Is a Credit Freeze? Should I Freeze My Credit?". www.lifelock.com. Retrieved 2021-09-02.
  11. ^ Aline (2023-02-02). "Credit lock: what you need to know about securing your file". Milesopedia. Retrieved 2023-05-17.
  12. ^ Government of Ontario, Ministry of Economic Development. "Government of Ontario, Canada". www.ontariocanada.com. Retrieved 2022-01-11.
  13. ^ "Security Freeze - Consumers Union". Consumerunion.org. August 8, 2011. Retrieved 2017-09-16.
  14. ^ "Missouri Security Freeze Law". Archived from the original on September 1, 2008.
  15. ^ "Alabama HB15 | 2012 | Regular Session". LegiScan. Retrieved 2016-07-07.
  16. ^ "New law allows credit freezes for everyone in Michigan". 13ABC News. 18 June 2018. Retrieved 2022-01-11.
  17. ^ "SB 1386 Senate Bill - CHAPTERED". Archived from the original on 2007-06-13. Retrieved 2007-06-01.
  18. ^ "Newsroom TransUnion". newsroom.transunion.com.
  19. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-07-16. Retrieved 2006-07-22.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ "Consumers – nctue".
  21. ^ Smith, Andrew; Hillebrand, Gail (21 September 2018). "Free credit freezes are here". Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved 20 June 2023.