Credit Freezes When Buying A Home
Approximately 145 million Americans' personal information and credit data was compromised in 2017 due to the Equifax data breach, leaving them vulnerable to identity fraud and theft. Because of this, the U.S. credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) saw an increase in consumers requesting to freeze their accounts.
Credit freezes, also called security freezes, prevent others from viewing your credit reports, including lenders. The freezing of your credit file seems like a drastic measure, but it might be necessary if you're dealing with identity theft and other measures, such as fraud alerts, haven't helped. While this is an invaluable safety measure, it poses a problem when there are legitimate inquiries on your credit, like when you need to apply for a mortgage. A credit freeze prevents your mortgage lender from accessing your credit report to complete your mortgage application.
It’s essential to unfreeze your credit before getting a pre-approval for a mortgage. Without this, the house-hunting process can be delayed because an offer without a pre-approval will most likely not be entertained in the current real estate climate.
You have the option to completely unfreeze your credit accounts or, alternately, “thaw” or put a temporary lift on the freeze, in order to complete your mortgage process. This will allow the lender sufficient time to pull your credit report and apply for new credit.
Your credit must be unfrozen at each bureau individually unless you know which credit bureau your lender uses and choose to lift your freeze just at that one.
How to unfreeze credit with Experian
Experian is the only credit bureau that requires a PIN to unfreeze your credit. An Experian credit freeze lift can be for a specific time; there's no maximum. The online form warns, however, that you can't change the date range for unfreezing your credit once you've submitted it. Experian also offers a single-use PIN that can help ensure your information is seen only by a creditor you authorize, so it isn't exposed needlessly. Experian gives you the PIN, and you give it to the entity checking your credit.
Contact options: Experian websiteExperian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013888-397-3742
How to unfreeze credit with Equifax
You can unfreeze your Equifax credit report online by creating a "myEquifax" account. A PIN is no longer needed for online freezing or lifting an Equifax credit freeze. Equifax allows you to unfreeze your credit temporarily for a specific creditor or for a specified period, from one day to one year. You can also permanently unfreeze your credit, which NerdWallet does not recommend.
If you choose to unfreeze or reinstate a freeze by phone or mail at Equifax, you will need a PIN.Contact options: Equifax websiteEquifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348800-349-9960
How to unfreeze credit with TransUnion
How to unfreeze credit with TransUnionFor unfreezing your TransUnion credit report online, you may need to sign up for a new TransUnion account with a username and password. You no longer need a PIN.You can lift a TransUnion credit freeze for one to 30 days, beginning on a start date you pick. You can lift the freeze for a specific time period or for certain creditors for whom you can create an access code to be used during a limited time. This differs from Experian’s single-use code because it can give multiple creditors access to your file during the time window.
Contact options: TransUnion websiteTransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016888-909-8872