I went to apply for a loan online and was automatically denied because I had placed a freeze on my credit records after the data-breaches a few years ago. How is it that mobile apps (e.g. Credit Karma) know my credit rating and all of the credit cards and loan history, even though my credit records are frozen? What, precisely, is a "freeze" anyway? What do the credit agencies mean when they say that a freeze prevents "access" to your credit record?

P.S. It was a hellish experience, BTW, to get that freeze released. The Equifax website didn't recognize me although I provided my SSN, date of birth, first name, last name, mobile phone number, and email address. The Experian website refused to unfreeze my record even though I had the PIN they issued to me. They wanted me to send a photo id, a utility bill, a bank statement, and something with my SSN on it.

  • 2
    Experian created those PINs rather stupidly from the date you requested them. Obviously, any identity thief can do the same, so they were lambasted for it, and it seems they decided to not honor them any more.
    – Aganju
    Aug 22, 2020 at 16:54

2 Answers 2


A 'Freeze' prevents a 'hard' credit-check that companies use to decide if they want to do business with you. Any company that lends you money will do that, but legally they need your permission (signature) to do it.

What you experienced is a 'soft' check, where a company simply pays to see your history. That gives them the information they need to decide if they even want to advertise something to you, like a credit card offer in the mail. Each of the three credit score companies makes money in those checks, and they do not allow you to block this in any way.

Note that having a credit freeze at one or two of those three is of little use, as the remaining one(s) will still happily allow an identify thief to open credit lines for you. To be any use, you need to freeze all three.

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    What is intrinsically different about a "hard" and "soft" check? Do they contain different information? Is a "soft" check more likely to be stale?
    – Tim
    Aug 23, 2020 at 11:11
  • Or does a "hard" check merely come with some sort of guarantee that the data is accurate, and that if any harm should befall the company for extending credit based on bad info, the credit agency will make them whole?
    – Tim
    Aug 23, 2020 at 11:23


A security freeze is designed to prevent a credit reporting company from releasing your credit report without your consent. A few entities may still have access to your credit report such as companies with whom you have a current account or relationship with you, and collection agencies acting on behalf of those or companies that provide you with access to your credit report/credit score or monitor your credit report as part of a subscription or similar service and even companies that wish to make pre-approved offers of credit or insurance to you. You can always opt-out of such promotional inquiries by contacting each credit bureaus.

Let me explain the difference between hard inquiries and soft inquiries to you as easily as I can.

Hard Inquiries: If you apply for credit such as a mortgage, auto loan, or credit card, the lender with your permission will check your credit report and credit score from one or more of the major credit bureaus. Too many hard inquiries in a short period of time can be concerning to lenders. Opening various new credit accounts may mean you're having trouble paying bills or are at risk of overspending. As a result, hard inquiries have a temporary, negative effect on your credit score.

Soft Inquiries: When you check your own credit report or give permission to someone like a potential employer to review your credit report, a soft inquiry occurs. These inquiries have no effect on your credit score as they are never considered as a factor in credit scoring models.

This should help.

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