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During Identity Theft Awareness Week 2022, we’ve talked about reducing your risk of identity theft. Credit freezes and fraud alerts can help. Both are free and make it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. One may be right for you.

Credit freezes

A credit freeze is the best way you can protect against an identity thief opening new accounts in your name. When in place, it prevents potential creditors from accessing your credit report. Because creditors usually won’t give you credit if they can’t check your credit report, placing a freeze helps you block identity thieves who might be trying to open accounts in your name.

A freeze also can be helpful if you’ve experienced identity theft or had your information exposed in a data breach. And don’t let the “freeze” part worry you. A credit freeze won’t affect your credit score or your ability to use your existing credit cards, apply for a job, rent an apartment, or buy insurance. If you need to apply for new credit, you can lift the freeze temporarily to let the creditor check your credit. Placing and lifting the freeze is free, but you must contact the national credit bureaus to lift it and put it back in place.

Place a credit freeze by contacting each of the three national credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. A freeze lasts until you remove it.

Fraud alerts

A fraud alert doesn’t limit access to your credit report, but tells businesses to check with you before opening a new account in your name. Usually, that means calling you first to make sure the person trying to open a new account is really you.

Place a fraud alert by contacting any one of the three national credit bureaus. That one must notify the other two. A fraud alert lasts one year and you can renew it for free. If you’ve experienced identity theft, you can get an extended fraud alert that lasts for seven years.

Learn more about credit freezes, fraud alerts, and active duty alerts for service members. And, if identity theft happens to you, visit to report it and get a personal recovery plan.

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February 03, 2022
It would be helpful if lifting a credit freeze could be for less than 24 hours. A lot of damage could be in that time.
February 03, 2022
My husband and I froze our credit 15 years ago.Then we had to mail it in and pay, now you can do it on line and it's free. I have helped many elderly neighbors freeze theirs. We have never had a problem. Freezing also stops credit card offers being mailed. To unfreeze now you call, give your pw then you are asked how long you want the freeze lifted. It works great, you don't have to remember to refreeze.
FTC Staff
February 04, 2022

In reply to by Luftmentsh

"PW" is a short way of writing "password."

February 03, 2022
Whoohoo! Now here is information that's beyond valuable! I'm going to use the credit freeze myself. Actually I have zero credit, so I shouldn't have to worry right? Wrong! Identity thieves don't know what a person's credit score is or whether they have good credit or bad, or no credit. They just attempt to get something using your identity. I paid off all of my creditors back in 2007 after my husband passed, cut up all credit cards, and I owe nobody. Unfortunately, not having any credit is just as useless as having bad credit...actually worse in some ways, because there's nothing on my report at all, it's like I don't exist. It doesn't matter that you live within your means and don't have outstanding credit to pay off, they still consider you a high risk. That makes zero sense to me. I pay my rent before it's even due, my power bill as soon as the new one is issued, my phone bill has never been late, renters ins is taken automatically. What I have left after my monthly bills I just let accumulate. I owe nobody and I'm a solidly reliable bill payer. With all that said, I still worry that a nefarious person could possibly get into my account and drain the money I've been able to save. So it's a credit freeze I'm going to place on all the credit bureaus to cement my protection. I didn't even realize you could place a credit freeze without having been a victim of fraud. Now I do. Stay aware and stay safe people. Thank you FTC!
February 04, 2022
Are credit freezes free on TransUnion, Equifax and Experian?