Fraud alerts vs. credit freezes: FTC FAQs

Share This Page

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 IdentityTheft.gov. 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.
 

Comments

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 !!

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.

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

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?

There should be one Federal Agency that Manages and Controls Credit in our Country.
NOT Profit mongering Companies!
Thank you.

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.

How do I put a credit freeze on all of my accounts.

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

Fraud alerts and credit freezes DO NOT prevent or stop someone from extending credit, they just prevent someone from checking it.

Add new comment

Comment Policy

Privacy Act Statement

It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system (PDF), and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system (PDF). We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.