A credit freeze won’t prevent criminals from using your existing credit (if they accessed it before). It will, however, prevent criminals from opening new credit in your name. Close all accounts identify thieves have accessed in the past. Ask the creditor to issue new account numbers. After this is done, freeze your credit to lock the criminals out of your account.
Unfreezing credit can take up to three days to process (after making the initial request), according to the Federal Trade Commission.
A credit freeze locks up your credit, preventing criminals from opening new credit accounts in your name. Once you place the credit freeze, only existing lenders can access your credit. This means you can't get new credit without "unfreezing your credit." There are two options for "unfreezing" your credit, a permanent unfreeze and a temporary unfreeze. A permanent unfreeze will lift your freeze for good. However, a temporary unfreeze will lift the freeze for the amount of time you specify. For example, you may lift the credit freeze for 24 hours. After this time, your credit report will freeze again.
Request a temporary credit unfreeze. When a consumer freezes his credit, the reporting agency assigns a personal identification number. Unfreeze your credit report by contacting each reporting agency (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian) and providing the PIN. Each credit bureau will have assigned you a different PIN.
Request a permanent unfreeze. If you decide to unfreeze your credit permanently, you'll need the same PIN as a temporary unfreeze. Contact all three credit bureaus and request an unfreeze. Each bureau will also send you confirmation in writing.
Review your credit report. Unfreezing your credit, even for a day, leaves your information unprotected. Safeguard yourself against additional crimes by reviewing your credit report after unfreezing your credit. Order a free credit report though Annual Credit Report (see Resources). You can also purchase monitoring services, which notify you of new credit opened in your name. Credit monitoring typically costs less than $20 a month, as of 2010. Credit bureaus typically offer this service.