Fraud alert or credit freeze – which is right for you?

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Considering a fraud alert or credit freeze? In the aftermath of the Equifax data breach, many people are. You don’t need to be an identity theft victim to use them – but it’s helpful to consider your situation. If you’re not sure which is best for you, here are some things to think about.

What do fraud alerts and credit freezes do? With a fraud alert, businesses must try to verify your identity before extending new credit. Usually that means calling to check if you’re at a particular store attempting to take out new credit. With a credit freeze, no one – including you – can access your credit report to open new accounts. You’ll get a PIN number to use each time you want to freeze and unfreeze your account to apply for new credit.

How long do fraud alerts and credit freezes last? A fraud alert lasts for 90 days. You can renew it but you’ll need to remind yourself or it will expire automatically. Identity theft victims are entitled to an extended fraud alert, which last seven years. In almost all states, a credit freeze lasts until you temporarily lift or permanently remove it. In a few states, it expires after seven years.

How much do they cost? Fraud alerts are free. Credit freezes may involve fees, based on state law. In most states, they’re free for identity theft victims. For non-victims, they cost about $5 to $10 each time you freeze or unfreeze your account with each credit reporting agency.

How do I place a fraud alert or credit freeze? To place a fraud alert, contact any one of the three major credit reporting agencies, either by phone or online. The one you contact is required to notify the other two. If you’re an identity theft victim placing an extended fraud alert, you’ll also need to mail or upload your Identity Theft Report which you can create at IdentityTheft.gov. To place a credit freeze, you must contact each of the three credit reporting agencies individually at their credit freeze portals.

How does this all add up? Credit freezes may be a strong tool but they may not be for everyone. Consider the cost and hassle factor. If you’re about to take out new credit (apply for a mortgage, car loan, student loan), then you’ll have to unfreeze and refreeze each time you want new credit. But if you won’t need new credit soon, then a credit freeze may be for you.

Still not sure? For more information, check out Place a Fraud Alert, Credit Freeze FAQs, and Extended Fraud Alerts and Credit Freezes.

Comments

I have a credit freeze and it is quite easy to use. It is a pain that I have to pay every time I need it lifted. Like I re-financed the house and had to lift the freeze and was charged $10 each. Now, I can understand if someone else puts a freeze on your account. You need a password code to in-freeze.

I placed a fraud alert and a credit freeze with Equifax,fraud alerts with the other reporting agencies. Is this a practical temporary solution considering the recent Equifax hack?

Thank you

Since it is not my fault that your company has been breeched, why would you charge me to freeze my account? I would like to freeze my account but have been unsuccessful on the computer. What I need is a form sent to me but it wouldn't work either.

i want to put a credit freeze on all 3 credit bureaus.

After using a credit freeze, must I lift it in order to get a credit report?

When you place a credit freeze, you can still get your free annual credit report. You don't have to lift the freeze to get your report yourself.

And, you can still open a new account, apply for a job, rent an apartment, or buy insurance. But, before you do those things, you need to lift the freeze temporarily. You can lift the freeze for a specific time or so that a for a specific business like a landlord or employer can get your report.

Read the FTC Credit Freeze article for more.

Thank you so much for your help!

Thanks federal Trade Comission!

The Equifax number doesn't work. It's nearly impossible to get any of this done.

If Equifax was breached & the only way to find out " if" my personal, sensitive info was one if the millions the hackers got personal info from Equifax. Why the heck would ANYONE go to the Equifax menu & enter in the last 6, not 4 but 6 digits of your SS # with the Credit Bureau that left loop wholes that allowed Hackers to breach it? Is it just me that thunjs this is a " BRIGHT IDEA????" Is there another way to check it out?

So true! This is what I've been thinking and telling ppl for days! Thanx confirmation. I am going to ignore the entire thing until someone comes up w/ a real fix, or the world ends-- whichever comes first.

Can companies still do a soft credit inquiry with a credit freeze?

If your credit report is frozen:

  • it can be released to your existing creditors or to debt collectors acting on their behalf.
  • government agencies may have access in response to a court or administrative order, a subpoena, or a search warrant.

Read the FTC Credit Freeze article for more

What if you had ID theft 3 years ago and took all the steps for an alert to be added to our credit, IRS & filed reports with you and our local police. Does that cover the freeze fees?

If you added a fraud alert to your credit report, that is not the same as a credit freeze. Read the FTC Credit Freeze article for more information about the difference between those two actions.

I'm not suggesting a freeze, but would my credit fraud alert be enough protection? I watch my credit closely and I don't want to pay to see my personal report after all we had to go through before.

Federal law requires each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months, when you request it. 

To order, go to annualcreditreport.com, or call 1-877-322-8228. Or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

My impression is that only having a Fraud Alert is NOT enough protection. It appears to me that a Security Freeze provides superior protection (but is not free, and can be a bit of a hassle to unfreeze). Some are recommending to do both. In addition, you could elect to pay for a monthly monitoring service.

tried many days now to freeze equifax file. I keep getting a 504 error saying their system is busy. Also don't think I should have to pay to freeze information I never gave them permission to collect

So Equifax says yes to being impacted... then what? They are refusing to allow us to freeze our accounts. I've tried for days and get nothing but refusal.

Went to annualcreditreport.com to get credit report. System is down. Tried to set up a fraud alert through equifax. Got the same "system is down" message.

How is it Equifax isn't responsible for their own negligence?

It was their system that potentially harmed millions of Americans who had no role in Equifax's use of their records or gave permission to Equifax for any of Equifax's use of credit information.

How is it now the innocent party's responsibility to pay for Equifax's failures?

Also issue with Equifax. Was able to submit but they say they are sending an email to complete the process, but has been all day and no email. They do not give a confirmation number when submitting so unless that email comes, there is no way of proving they were notified.

Went to another company and paid the $5. to get the freeze done.

Ok - all my accounts are joint with my wife. If I sign on to freezes with the credit reporting agencies, do I have to repeat that with my wife's information - thereby paying twice?

You and your wife might have joint accounts for credit cards or your mortgage, but you have individual credit reports.

You each have a credit report that includes information about where you have lived, accounts you have, how you have paid your bills, and whether you’ve been sued or have filed for bankruptcy. 

If a thief gets your personal information - or your wife's - and there isn't a freeze on the credit report, the thief can open new accounts in your name - or your wife's. Read more about Credit Freezes.

I went on last night to Equifax when the traffic was lighter and I had no problem. Make sure you can print the attachment to keep for your records as it contains the 10 digit code you will need to unlock the freeze. Good luck.

the FTC/congress/senate should definitely be at the forefront of this obvious systemic issue, and hold companies like Equifax criminally and financially liable, not to mention to force them to give free credit freezes to all affected. I'm sure the reason most people can't access their systems these days is because the bandwidth can't handle the volume

Since the Equifax security breech seems to affect me and 90% of the adults in this nation, it seems inappropriate for them to benefit financially from their carelessness. Since this stolen information contains “evergreen” information (things I cannot change, i.e. SS#, date & place of birth, etc.) it appears that I need to freeze my credit information for the foreseeable future.

California State law allows them (and the other two credit reporting agencies) to collect fees on both ends of a credit freeze. My initial research indicates that each of these agencies collect $10 to freeze and $12 to lift said freeze. So it would seem that it will cost me $30 to protect myself and $36 to have these idiots provide required information on my credit.

TITLE 1.6. CONSUMER CREDIT REPORTING AGENCIES ACT [1785.1 - 1785.36]

I would like to see the California legislature provide leadership in the form of emergency action to relieve us of this unfair burden.

You try to freeze or alert, give all information to all 3 companies & they come back to say their systems are down. Equifax has NOT return an email on 1 year coverage to date. (FTC) should order or take them to court yesterday to give those people whose data was lost LIFETIME coveage!! It is like these 3 companies were given the codes of life and one of them (so far) lost it. Please HELP, quickly.

I got thru by phone to freeze with equifax. No charge. On 9/13/17
Today 9/14/17 I froze transunion and experian. Experian was very frustrating to use. They wait 2 to 3 minutes between verifying each entry. At times I thought the call was dropped even though they tell you the pauses will be long and not to hang up. Both of these charge $10.00 each to freeze and there will be a charge again when I unfreeze.

Why doesn't Equifax have to pay for the credit freezes to all the bureaus - they are the cause of this mess.

Here's a suggestion for the FTC: The cost of a credit freeze is NOT the issue. The problem is mitigating the chances of further exposing personal information in order to place a credit freeze. It has NOT been possible to get through to Equifax, Transunion or Experian by phone in order to place a credit freeze. I am not going to expose myself to another hack by putting my personal information on their websites, nor am I going to mail copies of my driver's license, bills, social security number and birth date as they require. Since nearly half of the US population has been exposed by this hack, I would STRONGLY recommend that the FTC require all three credit agencies to put a credit freeze on ALL credit reporting and provide PINS so that those who want the freeze lifted or want to opt out may do so. It's unacceptable that the only ways available to consumers to put a credit freeze on their reports exposes them FURTHER to potential identity theft. There is not a website in existence that cannot be hacked, and the US mail is not impervious to theft, loss, or mis-delivery.

My husband and I have had our credit reports frozen for the past several years. Equifax has indicated that our information was probably compromised in the 2017 hack. Is there any value for us in asking for the free year of credit monitoring that Equifax is offering if we keep our credit frozen?

How did they contact you?

Would it be better to put everything in writing and sending our requests via mail? Certified?

Is this, 1-800-685-1111, a legitimate number to do a credit freeze at Equifax? Also, I need a phone number at Equifax to remove a credit freeze. Thanks.

That number is one number for Equifax. Here are other contact numbers and links for Equifax.

In NC freezing as many times you need is completely free, also innovis is free, you don't have to be a victim.

Why can I not just print my credit report and present it to whoever is interested in my credit history? Why unfreeze and refreeze the credit file for fees at three different locations?

I tried to order my annual free credit reports, prior to freezing all 3, TransUnion is so innundated after Equifax's slip-up, they said that they couldn't run my report, and to try back later. I just froze it. Lifelock is an hour hold time before you get a person, and it's after midnight. if people can't get credit because they have all frozen their reports, then the only people MAKING money off of this are the criminals AND the credit reporting agencies. It cost me $20 to put a freeze on, times 140 million other people.....

In Illinois if you are over 65 the credit freeze is free per the states attorney.

How do you pay for the $5 or $10 fee to freeze each report? Do you have to plug in a credit card number online or are you billed in the mail. Can you pay by check?

You can ask the credit reporting company about methods of payment.

The industry gets to make money from our personal information, allows it to be stolen through their incompetence and then wants to charge us to attempt to protect ourselves!
They shouldn't be allowed to charge.

I did get the notice, got right in online. was given a day to set up all.got right in on that day. I guess i was lucky.

Equifax charged me 10.00 for a credit freeze. This was the day before the breach was announced. Transunion was 10.00,butExperian charged me 10.50 and enrolled me in their monthly thing automatically and charged me 23.32 plus the initial 1.06 sign-up fee. I thought I was getting a credit freeze not signing up for anything. When I asked about a refund I was told I have it till the end of the month so no I was not getting a refund. If they do business this way, I would think twice about trusting them.

Can you request credit freeze via letters to in the mail? If so, please provide addresses for 4 credit reporters and explain how you get PIN or whatever they'll require to lift the freeze. Thanks

Here are the links and phone numbers for the three nationwide credit reporting companies. You'll find more information on their websites.

The links to credit reporting companies show NO address to Freeze credit by mail. I have found a few different address's for each company. PLEASE list the correct address for each company. THANK YOU

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