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What's The Difference Between a Fraud Alert and a Credit Freeze?

October 18, 2017

With 143 million victims, there’s a good chance you may have been impacted by the recent Equifax Data Breach.  Our firm is assisting those who have had their sensitive personal information exposed. One question we get is if it makes sense to get a fraud alert or a credit freeze. They can both help prevent identity theft. Here’s some information to help you decide if either of these are a good option for you.

 

A fraud alert is added by contacting any of the big three credit bureaus (Trans Union, Equifax, or Experian) and requesting them to place a fraud alert. The alert is in effect for 90 days and can then be renewed.  A fraud alert costs nothing. It works like this: whenever credit is opened in your name the prospective creditor must verify that you are actually the one opening the account. The typical method of verification is to call you at the time the account is opened. It’s a fairly simple procedure that can prevent identity theft.

 

A step up from the fraud alert is the credit freeze. This prevents all third parties from accessing your credit report until you lift the freeze. The credit bureaus generally charge a small fee for a credit freeze (although Equifax has recently waived this fee due to the data breach).  Give some serious thought before going the credit freeze route. It takes a couple days to lift the credit freeze.  Lifting the freeze can also be cumbersome as dealing with the credit bureaus is never easy.  A credit freeze can interfere with your ability to obtain a credit card, loan or even rent an apartment.  But it does make it very tough for an identity thief to open accounts in your name.   

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