As part of the series to celebrate Credit Education Month, this week we will focus on understanding the concept of a credit freeze and a fraud alert. These two concepts are fundamentally different in the way they are applied under varied circumstances.
A credit freeze also known as a security freeze is basically a restriction of access to your credit report. This makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. Most creditors need to see your credit report before they approve a new account. If they can’t see your file, they may not extend the credit.
Here are 10 facts about credit or security freezes from the FTC.
- A credit freeze does not affect your credit score.
- It does cost money to place a credit freeze. Typically, it’s $5-10 depending on where you live. However, you can place a fraud alert on your account at no cost. Determine which is best for your needs.
- You can still open new accounts- it just takes some extra steps.
- Identity theft can still continue on your existing accounts. Be sure to monitor all your accounts regularly.
- You must place a security freeze through each of the credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.
- Lifting the freeze can be temporary or permanent. Costs to remove it differ state to state.
- Your existing creditors can still have access to your credit report.
- You are still able to obtain your free annual credit report.
- If you do need to lift the freeze and know which credit reporting agency they will use, only lift it for that specific agency.
- A credit freeze and fraud alert are different.
A fraud alert on your credit report notifies lenders and creditors who pull your report to take additional steps to verify your identification before they extend a credit line or loan in your name. This can help prevent a thief from opening any new accounts in your name and reduce your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft.
- An initial fraud alert lasts for 90 days and is renewable.
- They are available free of charge for consumers who may be victims of identity theft.
- A fraud alert does not prevent third parties from viewing your credit report; however third parties are required to take steps to verify that you have authorized the activity on your account if they see a fraud alert on the credit report.
- Having a fraud alert does not prevent lenders the access to credit reports and the ability to give credit to anyone they wish.
Watch this video to learn more on the differences between credit freezes and fraud alerts.