Extended Fraud Alerts and Credit Freezes

You may be considering whether to place an extended fraud alert or a credit freeze on your credit report. Both are free. But there are important differences between these two options:

  • An extended fraud alert means that a business must verify your identity before it issues new credit. An extended fraud alert, lasting seven years, is available only to identity theft victims. To get an extended fraud alert, you’ll first need an Identity Theft Report.
  • A freeze generally stops all access to your credit report, while a fraud alert permits creditors to get your report as long as they take steps to verify your identity. A freeze is available to anyone, whether or not you are a victim of identity theft.

Extended Fraud Alerts

If you’ve created an Identity Theft Report, you can get an extended fraud alert on your credit file. When you place an extended alert, you can get two free credit reports within 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus. They must take your name off marketing lists for prescreened credit offers for five years, unless you ask them to put your name back on the list. The extended alert lasts for seven years.

Credit Freezes

You may choose to put a credit freeze on your credit report. A credit freeze restricts access to your credit report, making it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. But a credit freeze may not stop misuse of your existing accounts or some other types of identity theft. Also, companies that you do business with would still have access to your credit report for some purposes.

Putting a credit freeze on your credit file does not affect your credit score. If you place a credit freeze on your credit file, you can:

  • Get a copy of your free annual credit report.
  • Open a new account, apply for a job, rent an apartment, buy insurance, refinance your mortgage, or do anything else that requires your credit report. If you want a business, lender, or employer to be able to review your credit report, you must ask the credit bureau to lift the freeze. You can ask to lift the freeze temporarily or permanently. It’s free to place and lift a freeze. If you place or lift your freeze by phone or online, then the credit bureau must place the freeze within one business day and lift it within one hour. If you make a request by mail, then the credit bureau must place or lift the freeze within three business days of getting your letter.

How to Place a Credit Freeze

  1. Contact each of the three nationwide credit bureaus.
  2. Ask it to put a freeze on your credit report.


Source: U.S. FTC: www.consumer.ftc.gov

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