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

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UPDATE:  As of September 21, 2018, the law says credit freezes are free for everyone, and alerts now last one year (not 90 days).  Read more here.

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

Sorry to pester this, but would it simplify surveillance for Eqfx to announce a secure 'opt-in' registration for those seeking protection from nefarious use of the information Eqfx lost through their own failures?

The credit freezes are normally free to n most states for senior citizens

The costs to set and lift a freeze vary state-by-state.

why should credit reporting agencies make hundreds of millions from one credit reporting agency's mistake? what legal recourse is available?

What about all the money made when the execs sold stock in the company before releasing the hack info. They should be prosecuted and the money put into a fund to cover some expensed of the people affected.

I have managed to put a freeze on my credit report at TransUnion but was unable to do so at the other credit reporting agencies. After many frustrating attempts at the other sites, I decided to add a fraud alert to my account at TransUnion as this will get a fraud alert placed on the other credit reporting agencies. I would prefer to also put a freeze on the other agencies but that seems to be impossible at the moment. I wonder why placing a credit freeze at one of the agencies does not automatically apply a freeze at the others. It should be the same for both the fraud alert and the credit freeze.
Another issue I have is that the password to my account on the TransUnion site does not meet secure password standards (i.e. no special characters are allowed). The 6-digit PIN used to change the status of the freeze is too short and only numeric. Altering the status or removing the freeze on access to this vital information should be controlled with a secure password. If the same lax security is on the other agencies' sites, then this will not be the last breach.

Does the FTC suggest putting a credit freeze on children's social security numbers? Can thieves open accounts with their information since they are under 18?

A child under 18 should not have a credit report.

But, a thief could use a child's Social Security number to apply for government benefits, or open bank and credit card accounts. You could check to see if there is a credit report that misuses your child's information. The Child Identity Theft article tells how to check.

Please put a fraud alert on credit reports

If you want to place fraud alerts on your credit reports, contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies:

Here are the links and phone numbers for the three nationwide credit reporting companies.

Do children under 16 with a social security number have a credit account and if so, should that be frozen as well?

Thank you so much for all your help!

A 16 year old child should not have a credit report.

But, a thief could use a child's Social Security number to apply for government benefits, or open bank and credit card accounts. You could check to see if there is a credit report that misuses your child's information. The Child Identity Theft article tells how to check.

Equifax should have criminal charges file against them - they knew for several weeks there was a problem and did not have their IT Dept run the patch to fix the leak in their system. Several senior mgmt employees sold off stock prior to the announcement, they benefited from their own incompetence while 147 million Americans are put at risk for identity theft.

Why are these companies allowed to flat lose every thing we have worked for. This is going to be the biggest fraud and the most money ever lost by banks in this country.

thank you for this great article.

Will any of this affect my hard earned credit score? Went thru a divorce, custody processing (joint custody thanks to my greedy lawyer) and still have a reasonable score..Now thanks to this all my hard work in the garbage?

If the website say you were not impacted should you still do all the credit freezes?

Equifax's response to their debacle is unacceptable.
FTC - WAKE UP! Your response to Equifax's debacle has been non-existent. You are allowing Equifax to do whatever they feel like doing. Don't you know by now that Equifax is incompetent?

The FTC is not protecting consumers and is not punishing Equifax.

The FTC needs to send half of its organization into Equifax's corporate office and mandate specific and meaningful solutions that will protect American consumers. Then, the FTC needs to mandate that upon completion of implementing appropriate solutions, that Equifax is ordered to cease its operations permanently.

Your FTC website is a joke. There should be helpful information to consumers as well as what actions YOU are taking to protect us, as well as what actions YOU are mandating Equifax to take in this situation. Nothing.

I am greatly disappointed in the FTC's response to this Equifax debacle.

If you are married, does each spouse need to initiate a credit freeze?

You and your spouse might have joint accounts for credit cards, a car or mortgage, but you have individual identities, social security numbers, names, birthdays and credit reports.

 

Your credit report all those personal details, plus information about where you have lived, accounts you have had, 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 spouse's, and you don't have a freeze on the credit report, the thief could open new accounts in that name. Read more about Credit Freezes.

I have been trying all day to get experian and transunion freezes done online.
This process is so screwed up.
The freeze process needs to be as easy as getting a credit report. They all offer credit monitoring for monthly fee,and try to make it impossible to freeze for free online. FTC needs to get the freeze process streamlined.
Annual Credit Report.com works.
Why not have freezeyourcredit.com and do all 3 at same time.

I'm 72. Both TransUnion and Experion charged me the $5.00 Mass. state fee. Thought cost was $0 for over 65????

Can't the thief that has your information freeze you out of your own account before you have a chance to? So, it seems that we have no choice but to do a credit freeze while we still have the chance to, right?

I'm married and placed a freeze on my credit with all three agencies, but do I need to have my spouse do the same to fully protect our family?

You and your spouse may have joint accounts for credit cards or your mortgage, but you have individual social security numbers, birthdays, names and credit reports.

 

You each have a credit report that includes information about where you have lived, accounts you have had, 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 spouse's and you don't have a freeze on that credit report, the thief could open new accounts in your name - or your spouse's. Read more about Credit Freezes.

I'd really like to know why more articles don't mention the 4th bureau, Innovis. I only learned about it today. I also learned in passing about ChexSystems, a reporting agency which bank use to make decisions for opening bank accounts. People are also doing freezes there.

So if these guys each get $5-$10 each freeze and unfreeze how much extra revenue does that generate for each agency not at fault, assuming the ANSWER is "Yes, your data was breeched" for any requestor. Then will how will you be paying today, $10x2 $10(free Equ), more $ to come each time you need access and to relock. Smells fishy...

In my opinion Credit Reporting Companies are a close to slime as it is possible to get. I spent several hundred hours and multiple letters and faxes a few years ago to get one of their errors removed from my accounts! No one to contact for assistance, no personal contact with any “live” person and certainly No Apology! It was horrible and took couple of years before my credit score was back up where it began when this problem presented itself.

Please let me know how to ensure the safety of minors in terms of credit freeze. Equifax website says this service is not available for minors. Experian wanted me to send them a bunch of documents including my child's birth certificate and other sensitive info. I am currently working on checking Transunion. Thanks a lot.

This FTC article about Child Identity Theft has information about steps you can take.

I am receiving emails from banks I have never banked with. They generally say that there have been several attempts to log into "my" account and to click the link because my account has been suspended. What a mess. Guess I need to decide fraud alert or freeze....

SHOULD YOU ALSO FREEZE YOUR SPOUSES CREDIT REPORT IF THERE IS ONE?

You and your spouse might have joint accounts for credit cards, a car or mortgage, but you have individual identities, social security numbers, names, birthdays and  individual credit reports. The information in those credit reports is valuable.

 

Those credit report includes personal details, and information about where you have lived, accounts you have had, how you have paid your bills, and whether you’ve been sued or have filed for bankruptcy. If a thief gets the personal information from a credit file and you don't have a freeze on the credit report, the thief could open new accounts in that name.

Read more about Credit Freezes.

 

FYI...
If you're on Medicare, your Medicare ID# IS your Social Security number! So along with freezing your credit at all 3 credit bureaus, make a point to NEVER carry your Medicare card with you... treat it with extreme care like the Social Security card it basically is!!

I think the whole thing is a scare tactic to get people to sign up for experian and the other two credit reporting services. Can't get through calling any given phone number, can't freeze things on-line. I think the freeze is the real scam.

If you put freeze on transition, Experian do you still need to freeze Eqifax?

There are three nationwide credit reporting companies. If you put a freeze on your credit file with one company, that company will not automatically tell the other two companies to freeze your credit file. If you want a freeze on your credit file at all three credit reporting companies, you have to contact all three companies.

If you put a freeze on your credit file at only one credit reporting company, a thief could still open new accounts in your name.

I am interested in Innovis. They seem to be legitimate and cooperative. But can anyone just set up a credit agency? Does the FTC monitor and regulate them to the same extent as the other 3?

I have a credit freeze for my account but Equifax has not provided a PIN. How can I get one? How can I talk to a human?

Have been trying to get Equifax to credit freeze since 26 Sep 17 both via phone and web! Today the number I was instructed to call via email wanted a 10 digit SSN and asked if I live in Canada.. Incredible! Still no resolution, complaint submitted to FTC (probably along with millions of other) Other 3 credit orgs, no problem. Freeze took minutes.

Do I have to change or reapply for a credit freeze if I move to a new state?

No, you don't have to re-apply for a credit freeze if you move to a different state. The freeze stays in effect.

was told to file a report to place an credit freeze/fraud alert on my account.

My aunt is getting ready to leave the country once again... In the early 80's she collected welfare under hers and my mother's name. My mother applied for welfare and it was found she was receiving benefits in another state, my grandmother talked my mother out of pressing charges and that was that...in the mid 90's my aunt embezzled, from a small company she was part own of, about a million dollars in an account in Georgia under my mother identity, transferring it to a nother country then skipped out to a country with no extradition with the US. A few years after the statute lapsed she came back. So now she's planning to move to another country with no US extradition ties and I'm fearful my mother identity will be used again. My mother's older and cannot handle this trauma again. I need to know what to do to protect her if the chain of events haven't already started. Can I prevent an over seas account from being opened in my mom's name? My aunt probably already has my mother's ss card and birth certificate. Can I prevent another state I'd from being set up with my aunt's picture? They look very similar but there is about a 7-9 age difference.

online girlfriend from nigeria has all my info

Very good

I called 1-800-685-1111 in response to a letter stating that my application for a credit card had been denied. This was the number listed for Equifax on the letter. After listening to many recorded options I was asked for the digit of my home address, my state then my ss#. After giving the information, i was told that it would cost $7.99 to get my credit score. It then continuously asked for my credit card number. I didnt give the information. The letter itself states that the information is free if you had been denied credit. Is this a fraudulent number/letter?

This information is from the FTC article about Free Credit Reports: Under federal law, you are entitled to a free credit report if a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for a credit card, and you ask for your credit report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action.

Your credit report is different from your credit score. The contact number for Equifax is Equifax:1-800-685-1111. The article has more information for you.

equifax freeze is successful, but the PIN is created within a PDF file. This file is corrupted and cannot be opened. Equifax provides 1-888-298-0045 if the PDF cannot be opened. This 888 # is only 9-5 M-F in some unspecified timezone. It's Saturday now. Is FTC monitoring the reliability of these services? I should not have these issues with Equifax (that their service is broken unlike the other 2 national credit bureaus and I have to wait to week day to get attempt resolution for something I didn't cause).

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