Fraud alert, freeze or lock after Equifax? Answers to questions people are asking you

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After the Equifax breach, your customers, clients, and employees may be coming to you with questions. Some people are considering placing a fraud alert on their credit file. Others are thinking about freezing or locking their credit files to help prevent identity thieves from opening new accounts in their name. Here are some FAQs to help you help them think through their options.

Fraud Alert

  • What is it? A fraud alert requires companies to verify your identity before extending new credit. Usually that means calling you to check if you’re really trying to open a new account.
  • How does it work? The process is easy – you contact any one of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) and that one must notify the other two.
  • How long does it last? An initial fraud alerts last 90 days. After 90 days, you can renew your alert for an additional 90 days, as many times as you want. Military who deploy can get an active duty alert that lasts one year, renewable for the period of deployment. Identity theft victims (whose information has been misused, not just exposed in a breach) are entitled to an extended fraud alert, which lasts seven years.
  • How much does it cost? Fraud alerts are free.
  • Is this for me? With a fraud alert, you keep access to your credit and federal law protects you. But an initial fraud alert lasts only 90 days and then you’ll need to remind yourself to renew it every 90 days.

Credit Freeze

  • What is it? A credit freeze limits access to your credit file so no one, including you, can open new accounts until the freeze is lifted.
  • How does it work? To be fully protected, you must place a freeze with each of the three credit reporting agencies. Freezes can be placed by phone or online. You’ll get a PIN to use each time you freeze or unfreeze, which may take one to three business days.
  • How long does it last? A freeze lasts until you temporarily lift or permanently remove it (except in a few states where freezes expire after seven years).
  • How much does it cost? Fees are set by state law. Generally, it costs $5 to $10 each time you freeze or unfreeze your account with each credit reporting agency. You can get a free freeze if you are an identity theft victim, or in some states, if you’re over age 62. Equifax is offering free freezes until June 30, 2018.
  • Is this for me? Freezes are generally best for people who aren’t planning to take out new credit. Often, that includes older adults, people under guardianship, and children. People who want to avoid monthly fees also may prefer freezes over locks.

Credit Lock

  • What is it? Like a freeze, a credit lock limits access to your credit file so no one, including you, can open new accounts until you unlock your credit file.
  • How does it work? Like a freeze, to be fully protected, you must place locks with all three credit reporting agencies. With locks, however, there’s no PIN and usually no wait to lock or unlock your credit file (although the current Equifax lock can take 24 to 48 hours). You can lock and unlock on a computer or mobile device through an app – but not with a phone call.
  • How long does it last? Locks last only as long as you have an ongoing lock agreement with each of the credit reporting agencies. In some cases, that means paying monthly fees to maintain your lock service.
  • How much does it cost? Credit reporting agencies can set and change lock fees at any time. As of today, Equifax offers free locks as part of its free post-breach credit monitoring. Experian and TransUnion may charge monthly fees, often about $20.
  • Is this for me? Depending on your particular lock agreement, your fees and protections may change over time. So, if you sign up for a lock, it’s hard to be sure what your legal protections will be if something goes wrong later. Also, monthly lock fees can quickly exceed the cost of freezes, especially if the lock fees increase over time.

The FTC has more information for consumers about protecting their identity, including Credit freeze FAQs, Fraud alert or credit freeze – which is right for you, and Free freezes from Equifax. Also, check out the FTC’s resource page about the Equifax data breach. And if customers or employees tell you their personal information has been misused, suggest they visit to report identity theft and get a personal recovery plan.

Note: This post was updated on February 1, 2018 to reflect that Equifax extended the enrollment period for free credit freezes from January 31, 2018 to June 30, 2018.

Initial fraud alerts, credit freezes, and credit locks: What’s the difference?

What you should know about

Initial fraud alerts

Credit freezes

Credit locks

PurposeVerify your identity before extending new credit

Restricts access to credit file to prevent identity theft

Legal protections

Based on federal law (Fair Credit Reporting Act)Based on state law

Based on consumer’s lock agreement with each credit reporting agency (CRA)

Varies by CRA & may change over time

  • Free from Equifax until January 31, 2018
  • Free for id theft victims & in some states free for people over age 62
  • Otherwise, $5-$10 per credit reporting agency (CRA) each time you freeze or unfreeze
  • Free from Equifax, as part of free credit monitoring service
  • Otherwise, CRAs may charge monthly fees
  • Monthly fees may change
Links Place a fraud alert with any one of the three:Place a credit freeze with all three:Place a credit lock with all three:

Turning them on and off

A fraud alert:
  • Lasts 90 days
  • Can be renewed for free for an additional 90 days, as many times as you want
To freeze or unfreeze:
  • Online or by phone
  • Requires a PIN
To lock or unlock:
  • Online only
  • No PIN required

Downloadable PDF version



Wanna take off my Freeze? ?

Thanks for information.

Credit lock should against the law. It is predatory in nature. Fraud alert is the best. Most banks and credit companies offer the service for free.

I placed a credit lock on my equifax account, it did not lock the other 2

How difficult is it to take off these alerts? Can I take it off in a hour, a daily, a week or month, if I need a credit check?

Only that Equifax, adding insult to the injury, does not accept applications online from citizens out of the country (!) because the foreign zip code is not recognizable and the FTC says it is not within its jurisdiction to handle the relative complaint.

I sure would like to see the FDC go in and take control of all the problems created by Equifax. First, and most important in my opinion, is the fact that all our personal information is in the hands of incompetent people residing outside of our country (I think mine were all Philippines). ask for someone In-Country, and you're put on hold that is never answered. Is there any government agency overseeing this corporate mess?

I found fraudulent accounts on my report. Called Equifax and while they had no trouble monitoring my account they DEMAND I SEND MY DRIVERS LICENSE AND SOCIAL SECURITY CARD as PROOF of my identity. I WILL NOT SEND MY PERSONAL INFO TO ANYONE. I can verify, and did so verbally, who my parents are, the hospital I was born in and even the day of the freaking week I was born!!! They won't file a claim until I send them my personal information. Yes, the phones are answered in the PHILLIPINES! HOW WRONG IS THIS TRASH???

When I attempted to put a freeze on the Equifax Credit I learned that I had a loan which I was paying in a specific amount. BS I don't have any loans. It seemed to be a scam to require me to send the SS and license described above. I spoke with two representative with strong accents, one supposedly the supervisor to the other. All I asked for was a confirmation email that they had talked we me about their request for my ID's. They refused. Iwas persistent, they refused. I asked for a person I might contact in Atlanta, Georgia, they refused. If this isn't a scam it sure is the most poorly run business I have ever encountered. The problem now is to report this experience with someone in the regulating sector that cares. Who would that be?

When you have a lock on all three of your credit reports. Can debt buyers ad new accounts to your file when it is locked? If no but are they allowed to oppose as a collection agency and or debt collector in order to gain access to the credit files? Would that be misleading and fraud to access a consumer report ?

As of 9/21/18 fraud alerts last for one year and ID theft victims can then extend for seven. Would like a copy of the new chart when you get a chance to update it. Thank you.

As of September 21, 2018, you can get free credit freezes and year-long fraud alerts. Read more in this blog: Free credit freezes are here. The blog includes links to the credit reporting agencies to help you get started.

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