ITRC Info Sheet – Comparing Fraud Alerts and a Credit Freeze

 

Fraud alerts and credit freezes with the three primary Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs)* can help minimize fraudulent attempts to use your Social Security Number (SSN) to gain access to new lines of credit (which can lead to financial identity theft). 

 

 

Credit Lock

Initial Fraud Alert

Extended Fraud Alert

Credit Freeze

What It Is

A way to prevent access to your credit report for new lines of credit that may be opened to apply for credit, a loan, utilities, cell phone service, or to rent an apartment by a creditor with whom you do not have a current relationship.  Usually alerts you immediately to an attempt to access your credit.

A notice placed on your credit file to alert creditors for 90 days to verify your identity prior to issuing credit.

A notice placed on your credit file to alert creditors for 7 years to verify your identity prior to issuing credit. 

A way to prevent unauthorized viewing of and access to your credit report by companies with whom you don’t already do business.

Who Can Place One

Anyone over the age of 18.

Anyone over the age of 18.

Victims of identity theft with a police report/FTC Identity Theft Report who are over the age of 18.

 

Anyone over the age of 18. 

Why You Would Place One

You want to prevent unauthorized use of your credit and/or are at greater risk of identity theft due to lost or stolen personally identifying information (PII), including information stolen from a data breach.

You are a victim of identity theft or at greater risk of identity theft due to lost or stolen items. 

Alerts you to applications for new credit and gives you a chance to stop new fraudulent accounts.

 

You are a victim of identity theft but cannot place a credit freeze because your employer requires a regular background check or you need to have ready access to your credit.

You are a victim of identity theft or at greater risk of identity theft due to lost or stolen personally identifying information (PII), including information stolen from a data breach.

Blocks new creditors, background check companies and potential thieves from seeing your credit information. This is one of the best ways to proactively minimize your risk of identity theft.

Cost

Requires enrollment in a service. Cost varies per CRA.

Free to consumers who make this request.

Free with a police report or FTC Identity Theft Report.

Free to all victims of identity theft who have a police report/FTC Identity Theft report and, in most states, to seniors 65 years or older.

Charges for non-victims vary by state. Contact the three CRAs.

How To Apply

Contact the three CRAs directly. 

Contact the three CRAs by phone, online, or mail.

 

See ITRC How To Place a Fraud Alert.

 

Write to the three CRAs to apply.

 

See ITRC How To Place a Fraud Alert.

Contact the three CRAs by phone, online, or mail.

 

See ITRC How To Place a Credit Freeze.

 

Pros

Does not affect companies with whom you already have an established relationship.

Great for the initial phase of discovering identity theft when you are actively viewing your information.

No penalties or fees for continuing.


Does not affect your ability to use existing credit cards and lines of credit.

Great for the initial phase of discovering identity theft when you are actively viewing your information.

Same as Initial Fraud Alert.

Does not affect companies with whom you already have an established relationship.

A credit freeze can be lifted from your credit file if you need access to your credit.

Cons

New accounts may still be reported if a creditor opens an account utilizing a credit report from a CRA whose file you have not locked.

New accounts can be opened by a creditor with whom you already have an established relationship.

Your credit reports are still accessible to many entities, including potential employers or insurance companies, collection agencies acting on behalf of companies you may owe, government agencies in connection with a child support claim, and companies providing pre-screened credit card offers.

There are no laws requiring a creditor to contact you. Some credit issuers will only ask for verifying documents at the point-of-sale. Other credit issuers don’t use credit reports for verification so they may not see the fraud alert.

Does not provide long-term protection.

Same as Initial Fraud Alert.


Need a police report that states you are a victim of identity theft to apply.

Each time you wish to qualify for credit with a new creditor you will need to lift the freeze from (unfreeze) your credit report. There is a charge which varies depending on your state of residence. Contact the three CRAs for more information.

 

*Contact information for the Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs)

 

Equifax

1-800-525-6285

www.equifax.com

 

Experian

1-888-397-3742

www.experian.com 

 

TransUnion

1-800-680-7289

www.transunion.com

 

This fact sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

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