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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.

Consumers are apprehensive about the security of their personal information and recent headlines about data breaches have moved the needle substantially on the -ometer that measures such things. As a business executive, your customers and employees may be coming to you with questions. Here are answers from the FTC about two topics on consumers’ minds: fraud alerts and credit freezes.

Fraud alerts and credit freezes can be very helpful tools for consumers. People don’t have to be victims of identity theft to use them, but they should weigh their options in light of their personal circumstances. If they’re not sure what’s right for them, here are some points to ponder.

What do fraud alerts and credit freezes do? With a fraud alert, a business must try to verify a consumer’s identity before extending new credit. Usually that means calling to check if the person is actually at the particular store attempting to get credit. With a credit freeze, no one – including the consumer – can access the consumer’s credit report to open a new account. If consumers put a credit freeze in place, they’ll get a PIN number to use each time they want to freeze, unfreeze, and refreeze their account.

How long do fraud alerts and credit freezes last? A fraud alert lasts for 90 days. If the consumer doesn’t take the affirmative step of renewing the fraud alert, it automatically expires after that. Identity theft victims are entitled to an extended fraud alert, which last seven years. In almost all states, a credit freeze lasts until the consumer temporarily lifts it or permanently removes it. In a few states, it expires after seven years.

How much do fraud alerts and credit freezes cost? Fraud alerts are free. Depending on the state law, credit freezes may involve fees. In most states, they’re free for victims of identity theft. For others, they cost about $5 to $10 each time the consumer freezes or unfreezes their account with each credit reporting agency.

How can a consumer put a fraud alert or credit freeze in place? For a fraud alert, consumers can contact any one of the three major credit reporting agencies by phone or online. The law requires that the credit reporting agency notify the other two of the consumer’s fraud alert request. Identity theft victims who want an extended fraud alert must mail or upload their Identity Theft Report, which they can create at To put a credit freeze in place, consumers must contact each of the three credit reporting agencies separately at the companies’ credit freeze portals.

Credit freezes are a powerful tool, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all thing. If consumers are about to apply for new credit – for example, a mortgage, car loan, or student loan – they should consider the cost and potential hassle of unfreezing and refreezing each time. But for people who won’t need new credit anytime soon, a credit freeze may be a good choice.

If customers, colleagues, or friends have more questions, the FTC has three publications of interest: Place a Fraud Alert, Credit Freeze FAQs, and Extended Fraud Alerts and Credit Freezes. Consider sharing them through your social networks.

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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Chris Milliman
September 14, 2017
Experian has a better or another # on there site to call 1-800-311-4769 !! have to have patients when doing,listen carefully , the message machine is slow ! but seems to work ! at the end !! I always wonder why we depend on computers with our valuables !! computers should be like they use to be luctury in finding out about something ! like a dictionary or encyclopedia !! always hackers or scammers out there that no one seems to be able to catch ! so my vote goes to old school ways !! so we don't have these problems !! but its already out there !! and getting worse !! its getting out of control !! so places should quit asking for consumers to do things on line , with personal info ! should be optional if any !! my grandmother always said people don't know how to add or subtract without a calculator ! it shows ! it also is showing the problems that will and are going to happen do to computers !! there's a show that says the bad guy hacking a hospital ( patient records or procedures ) that's scary ! When are we going to wake up ! and not be so dependent on a computer !! Thanks for your time , Good Luck to All , that have owned or use a computer !! they can still be very useful in the right ways !! i have a son with medical issues , i thought i had enough to worry about !! i know i am not the only 1 ! Help us not be so dependent on computers ! since the bad guy is usually 1 or 2 steps ahead and the damage is already done and no one ever gets caught !! specially when they are protected in another country !! ready to drag every American over the hot coals !!
September 14, 2017
I had to make a new identity theft report, receivong multiple alerts from the IRS. I needed to report to an office with a pictured ID. This was after the death of my mom. I filed an ID Theft report, and called again when I found out the origination of my id theft. I called the crecit agencies 6/20/17 @ 3:30pm. My 90 days is not here yet to extend it, and they never extended it from the last two times I called the last 2 previous times. I'm getting a little wiser each time. Now, I have my own computer, so access will be easier.
Karen A. Susko
September 14, 2017
I have been trying to get the cost of a credit freeze in NY state in regards to the Equifax mess. I've done the following: checked FTC website Called FTC Called Equifax check Equifax website called NY Attorney General's Office NO ONE HAS AN ANSWER!!! WHY
Greg Hall
November 21, 2017

In reply to by Karen A. Susko

I agree. I live in Tennessee and no one has any answers. They are letting Equifax get away with this, just sweeping it under the rug. Equifax sent me an email for a credit monitoring service for 9.95 a month and this is their fault and I have to pay. Bull Sh*t.
Pat Ryder
September 14, 2017
when I signed up for the ID theft protection offered by Equifax it offered option of a credit hold. it said that I can turn it on and off myself. why don't I see anyone talking about this instead of credit freeze. is there really not such a thing?
Kevin P. Nicholas
September 15, 2017
There should be one Federal Agency that Manages and Controls Credit in our Country. NOT Profit mongering Companies! Thank you.
Larry Bonorato
September 15, 2017

In reply to by Kevin P. Nicholas

Oh, so you want the same government to manage credit reporting that manages VA health services for our veterans, the IRS which has been weaponized for political purposes, Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac whose shoddy practices brought us the financial collapse in 2008, the Federal Reserve which has devalued the dollar to the point is no longer accepted as payment in many countries, etc. Total reliance on a central government with the power to control everything was exactly what the Founding Fathers sought to eliminate from the US. A better route would be to have the FTC do its job and prosecute the individuals who sold their stock many weeks before even announcing to the public that this breach had occurred and discontinuing the Federal contract with Equifax for credit services. Doing so would probably cut Equifax back to a 2nd or 3rd tier provider and send a clear unmistakable message to executives who abuse their access to information and to companies that are required to protect the private information used in credit reporting.
Doris Frichtel
September 18, 2017
How do I put a credit freeze on all of my accounts.
Irma Trejo
October 12, 2017
victim of data breach ever since then i havent been able to get an approved mortgage loan i have been turned down so many times ! im so sick of those hackers ruinin my good name . im disabled and im not getting any younger , i, 53 years old i want desperately to own the American Dream! my credit was compromised by hackers from my job personnel contacted me by mail informing me of this not my fault i want i need my credit to be able to get home loan i have been turned down because of this breach im so frustrated to the point of no return a freeze was the advised , i want to own my own home ! HELP ME please going out of my mind ! a solution
CB Weaver
October 09, 2017
Fraud alerts and credit freezes DO NOT prevent or stop someone from extending credit, they just prevent someone from checking it.
September 21, 2018

In reply to by CB Weaver

Ah, i believe a credit freeze will lock the person who owns that name, credit, from additional of any kind of credit from happening
FTC Staff
September 28, 2018

In reply to by Berry

A credit freeze restricts access to your credit file, which makes it harder for an identity thief to open new accounts in your name. Starting September 21, 2018, you can freeze and unfreeze your credit file for free. If you want to place a freeze on your credit file, contact each of the three of the nationwide credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Read more at Free credit freezes are here

Dan Huffman
October 26, 2017
Although Equifax has provided free credit monitoring for a year, that is an inadequate response. Those of us that have lost our SS# numbers through the Equifax breach, now face ID theft risks for the rest of our lives. One year is not sufficient, Equifax must be required to provide credit monitoring for life, or until SS# are no longer used. Yes, Equifax is rolling out lifetime free freezes, but that is substandard defense, it only protects against New Account ID theft. Full Credit monitoring is required to guard against the 4 main forms of ID theft.
Hermas Grayless
January 18, 2018
I am getting calls from, 888-407-9597, saying that I bought a service from Dell in September of 2016 for $300. due to (They are not native English speakers it's hard to understand their explaination) something, they want to refund my money, only I have to turn my computer on so they can get access. That being the only way to get my refund from Dell.
L. Kline
January 29, 2018

In reply to by Hermas Grayless

It seems that whatever you enter on the equafax site comes up that you were impacted. I made up a name and made up 6 numbers and sure enough it was impacted.
September 21, 2018

In reply to by Hermas Grayless

Ha, ha, really ? And you want to know if it is legit ?
Quin Rose
March 23, 2018
We should go back to good old-fashioned 'walk into the bank' banking and bill payments system. ...the easier it is for us to handle our money the easier it is for thieves to crack the system.
September 21, 2018

In reply to by Quin Rose

Ha, ha , no we shouldn't, what's next wash your clothes in a stream and dry on a bush?
December 15, 2019
ive has no problem from transunion .experian with the freeze that they issue out but the only problem that i have they cant issue the freeze number thats the only problem