Creating a Personal Identification Number (PIN) acts as an extra security measure when you place a credit report freeze. But if you lose your PIN, can you unfreeze your credit? In this article, we'll cover whether or not unfreezing your credit is possible, and how it works with each credit bureau.
Why should I freeze my credit report?
A credit report freeze can protect your personal information from identity theft or if, for example, your information was exposed in a data breach or a fraudulent charge was detected on your account. It denies access to your credit score and report through one or all of the three credit bureaus (Experian™, Equifax® and TransUnion®), so lenders, insurance companies, or landlords can't pull your report while you're reviewing your report for discrepancies.
Whenever you apply for new credit, a lender or creditor usually reviews your credit information from the credit bureaus to evaluate your application for credit. They'll look at factors such as how responsible you've been with your credit and whether you've made payments on time.
Freezing your credit prevents your credit file from being viewed, which in turn prevents new accounts from being set up in your name, such as a loan or a new credit card.
When should I unfreeze my credit report?
If you're looking to apply for a loan or credit card, you will need to unfreeze your credit report. You'll have to unfreeze your credit report individually with each credit bureau. However, if you know which bureau a creditor is using, you can just unfreeze that one.
How can I unfreeze my credit report without a PIN with Equifax®, Experian™ and TransUnion®?
Here is a bureau breakdown of how you can remove a credit freeze on your report without a PIN:
How to unfreeze your credit report with Experian™
Experian still requires a PIN to freeze credit. If you lose your PIN, you can use Experian's online PIN request form to have your PIN sent. You'll just have to answer some identity verification questions.
How to unfreeze your credit with Equifax®
You don't need a PIN to freeze or unfreeze your credit with Equifax® if done online. You just need to create a myEquifax account. You can use this account to check the status of your freeze. You can also call and answer identity verification questions to lift the freeze. Lastly, you can download a form from their website and follow the instructions.
How to unfreeze your credit report with TransUnion®
Similar to Equifax®, you can create an online account, which allows you to freeze and unfreeze your credit with TransUnion®. You will need to create a PIN during the credit freezing process, but you only need your PIN if you want to lift your freeze by phone. If you lose your PIN, you can still unfreeze your report online as long as you have the password and name connected to the account. You can create a new PIN online for an added layer of security, and won't need the old PIN to set up a new one.
What does it mean to temporarily unfreeze your credit report?
There are two ways to temporarily unfreeze credit:
- If you're applying for a loan, you could ask your lender which bureau they use and unfreeze just that account for a specified date range, or you can unfreeze indefinitely and refreeze once the process is done. Just make sure not to forget to refreeze.
- You can lift a freeze for a specified number of days (i.e. you're shopping around for a car loan).
Temporarily unfreezing your credit is safer than permanently unfreezing credit, as it can still protect you against identity theft. Also, if you do a temporary unfreeze, you won't need to worry about remembering to freeze your credit again.
How long will it take to remove a credit report freeze?
All three bureaus usually lift a credit freeze immediately if your request is made via phone or online, but it can take up to one hour. If you decide to lift your freeze by mail, it should be lifted within three business days.