Security Freeze vs Fraud Alert
October 15, 2007
Identity theft has finally started getting the attention it’s been begging for. As people become more aware of this crime, they’ve brought pressure on politicians and the credit reporting agencies to make changes. In the past, every state had their own laws regulating security freezes. On November 1, 2007, everyone can put a security freeze on their credit report.
What’s the difference between a security freeze and a fraud alert?
A security freeze completely shuts off anyone from opening new credit in your name – even you. The freeze makes it impossible for anyone to access your credit report. It stays in place until you remove it. You have to freeze your credit with all three credit reporting agencies at a cost of $10 each. To get the freeze temporarily removed, it’s another $10 each. If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you can get a credit freeze for no charge. The fees vary by state, but $10 is the most common.
A fraud alert allows you to take out new credit or to let someone check your credit. The way it provides protection for you is this – you will receive a confirmation phone call at the number you gave before a new credit account can be opened. A fraud alert lasts for 90 days. To keep one in place, you’ll need to renew it quarterly. The cost for this is nothing – it’s free.
How to freeze your credit report
- Send a letter to each credit reporting agency requesting the freeze – preferrably a certified letter
Include your name, address, Social Security Number.
Include a check or provide a credit card number and expiration date to pay for the fees.
Provide proof of residence such as your driver’s license, student ID card, utility bill, etc.
You’ll receive a PIN number – keep that safe and somewhere where you can find it later
To remove or thaw the freeze, write to all three credit reporting agencies requesting the freeze be removed. You’ll need your PIN for this.
It can take three business days or more after receipt of your letter for the freeze to be removed. If you lost your PIN, it can take even longer.
Because it can take a while to freeze and unfreeze your credit, it’s best to use this if you know you won’t be applying for any new credit, getting a new job or moving in the near future.
How to place a fraud alert
Placing a fraud alert is considerably easier than a freeze. All you have to do is call one of the credit reporting agencies and request a fraud alert be placed on your file. Whichever credit agency you call will notify the other two agencies so that they can update you in their files.
A fraud alert will prevent you from getting instant credit which is usually offered at stores. An offer for instant credit usually sounds like this, "If you sign up for our Visa card today, you’ll get 10% off your purchases." Instant credit is an identity thief’s favorite kind.
The method you choose to protect yourself depends on your circumstances at the moment. Either one works well. Neither of them will have any effect on your credit score.