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Looking for ways to protect your identity? Two to options to consider are fraud alerts and credit freezes. But what’s the difference?

A fraud alert makes companies verify your identity before granting new credit in your name. Usually, that means calling you to check if you’re really trying to open a new account. Placing a fraud alert is easy – you contact any one of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) and that one must notify the other two. A fraud alert is free and lasts one year.

credit freeze limits access to your credit report so no one, including you, can open new accounts until the freeze is lifted. To be fully protected, you must place a freeze with each of the three credit reporting agencies. You’ll usually get a PIN or password to use each time you place or lift the freeze. A credit freeze is free and lasts until you lift it.

Which is right for you? It depends on your personal circumstances. Both fraud alerts and credit freezes can make it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. With a fraud alert, you keep access to your credit. But freezes are generally best for people who aren’t planning to take out new credit. Often, that includes older adults, people under guardianship, and children.

To place a fraud alert or credit freeze, use the credit bureau contact information listed below. Want to share what you’ve learned about fraud alerts and credit freezes? Order these free flyers to hand out in your community.

16 Comments


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Azahedighasabehi16
February 13, 2020
Thanks for information infact . All the best .
Lizda
February 13, 2020
I’ve had a credit freeze ever since the breech of the Office of Personnel Management. It has worked for me and when I needed to open an account , I was able to call Equifax, give them the PIIN number and lift the freeze for several hours!!
Geezer1
February 14, 2020

In reply to by Lizda

Lizda, I've kept freezes at all three reporting agencies for at least a couple years now and will lift them temporarily when required and I find it easier to lift using their web sites. Now here's something you should be aware of. Of the three reporting agencies, Equifax is the only agency that I will never lift the freeze because Equifax has been breached more than once while the others have never been breached to the best of my knowledge. Most creditors I've dealt with are satisfied with two reporting agencies, some just one. Now maybe that just works for me as my credit score is in the 800s. However, during my long experience with these agencies; I've discovered they all have the same information on me from creditors and others.
Cappy
February 18, 2020

In reply to by Geezer1

Geezer: Be careful with that. I had to start electric service at a house I purchased. It was with the same electric company I'd been with for 27 years, yet the company required a credit check. The only credit bureau they would accept was Equifax. Guess which one I had no record of a PIN for? Yep, them, of course. I had the other two, but the company wouldn't take them. After ten business days, I was able to place the electric in my name. I opened a money market savings account with a local branch of a major east coast bank. They required access to my credit report. Guess which credit report was the only one they would accept? Yep, Equifax. Freeze your report, but keep your PIN available.
The Constant O…
February 13, 2020
Thank you FTC, for posting this really valuable information!
Donald Stump
February 13, 2020
That was informative and short & sweet.
Wannabe
February 13, 2020
Thank you, I just had this happen to me yesterday, 2/12/20
BJWILL
February 13, 2020
THIS WAS VERY INFORMATIVE.
Fatherthertime
February 13, 2020
My credit freeze was hacked and had someone open an account at a large bank and applied for a loan. After months they issued us a letter agreeing the account plus thousands of others were also hacked.They first stated that we had lifted it.
charles
February 13, 2020
good info
natalie
February 14, 2020
I froze my credit years ago due the state of Va legislating. I attempted to get a copy online. No problem with Equifax and Transunion. Experian has not delivered. They are busy selling their services. Their website has no information to unfreeze with pin or obtain a free copy of my report. You have to subscribe to their trial service and remember to unsubscribe in order to avoid payment later.
FTC Staff
February 22, 2021

In reply to by natalie

You can use one website to order your free annual credit report from three credit reporting agencies:www.annualcreditreport.com

You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies at the same time. 

Or, you can order your report from each company one at a time. The law allows you to order one free copy of your report from each company every 12 months. There are three companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

And, starting in 2020, everyone in the U.S. can get six free credit reports a year through 2026 at the Equifax website or by calling 1-866-349-5191. The six credit reports are in addition to the one free Equifax report you can get at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.

Benjy.D
February 14, 2020
I want to think for your amazing reports. May Hashem bless you abundantly now and eternally grateful I am
Knowledge Seeker
March 20, 2020
Very helpful information that I will share
@Ng3!@
April 27, 2020
Are these documents available in PDF? Or via email? You can no longer order these flyers.
BigMike47
June 06, 2020
identitytheft.gov was a wonderful site. It no longer functions well . Specifically it failed to notify me that my password was about to expire. Once that happened, the site did not send me the promised link to setup a new password. Sic transit Gloria. Or is it COVID-19?