Fraud alerts and credit freezes with the three primary Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs)* can help minimize fraudulent attempts to use your Social Security Number (SSN) to gain access to new lines of credit (which can lead to financial identity theft).
|Credit Lock||Initial Fraud Alert||Extended Fraud Alert||Credit Freeze|
|What It Is||A way to prevent access to your credit report for new lines of credit that may be opened. Usually alerts you immediately if there is an attempt to access your credit.||A notice placed on your credit file to alert creditors for one year to verify your identity prior to issuing credit.||A notice placed on your credit file to alert creditors for seven years to verify your identity prior to issuing credit.||A way to prevent unauthorized viewing of and access to your credit report by companies with whom you don’t already do business.|
|Who Can Place One||Anyone over the age of 18.||Anyone over the age of 18.||Victims of identity theft with a police report/FTC Identity Theft Report who are over the age of 18.
|Anyone over the age of 18
For those under the age of 18, refer to this document: How To Place a Credit Freeze.
|Why You Would Place One||You want to prevent unauthorized use of your credit and/or are at a greater risk of identity theft due to lost or stolen personally identifying information (PII), including information stolen from a data breach.||You are a victim of identity theft or at greater risk of identity theft due to lost or stolen items.
Alerts you to applications for new credit and gives you a chance to stop new fraudulent accounts.
|You are a victim of identity theft but cannot place a credit freeze because your employer requires a regular background check or you need to have ready access to your credit.||You would like to minimize your risks of identity theft, are a victim of identity theft or at a greater risk of identity theft due to lost or stolen personally identifying information (PII), including information stolen from a data breach.
Blocks new creditors, background check companies and potential thieves from seeing your credit information. This is one of the best ways to proactively minimize your risk of identity theft.
|Cost||Requires enrollment in a service. Cost varies per CRA.||Free to consumers who make this request.||Free with a police report or FTC Identity Theft Report.||Free to everyone in the United States, regardless of the reason.|
|How To Apply||Contact the three CRAs as each has different requirements:||Contact the three CRAs as each has different requirements:
|Contact the three CRAs as each has different requirements:||Contact the three CRAs as each has different requirements:
|Pros||Does not affect companies with whom you already have an established relationship with.
A simple way to make it more difficult for other entities to have access to your credit report.
|No penalties or fees for continuing.
Does not affect your ability to use existing credit cards and lines of credit.
Great for the initial phase of remediating identity theft when you are actively viewing your information.
Enables you to receive a free copy of your credit report per CRA with whom you filed.
|Same as a Fraud Alert.
Alleviates the need to renew the Fraud Alert every year.
|Does not affect companies with whom you already have an established relationship with.
A credit freeze can be lifted from your credit file if you need access to your credit.
If you need to temporarily grant access to your credit report for a specific company (e.g., for a job or a specific creditor), you can “thaw” your credit by contacting each credit reporting agency (CRA).
|Cons||New accounts may still be reported if a creditor opens an account utilizing a credit report from a CRA whose file you have not locked.
New accounts can be opened by a creditor with whom you already have an established relationship with.
Your credit reports are still accessible to many entities, including potential employers or insurance companies, collection agencies acting on behalf of companies you may owe, government agencies in connection to a child support claim and companies providing pre-screened credit card offers.
|There are no laws requiring a creditor to contact you. Some credit issuers will only ask for verifying documents at the point-of-sale. Other credit issuers don’t use credit reports for verification so they may not see the fraud alert.
Does not provide long-term protection.
|Same as a Fraud Alert.
Need a police report or FTC Identity Theft Affidavit that states you are a victim of identity theft to apply.
|Each time you wish to qualify for credit with a new creditor, you will need to lift the freeze or thaw it temporarily.
This fact sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.