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Fraud Alert, Security Freeze, and Credit Report Lock

When it comes to your credit, you may hear terms like “fraud alert,” “security freeze,” and “credit report lock.” While each one is designed to help you better protect your personal information, they do so in different ways. Here’s a closer look at each.

What is a Fraud Alert?

A fraud alert is a notice that is placed on your credit report that alerts credit card companies and others who may extend you credit that you may have been a victim of fraud, including identity theft. Think of it as a “red flag” that makes companies take steps to verify your identity before extending credit in your name.

You may contact any of the three major credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- to request a fraud alert. Once you place an alert with one of the bureaus, that bureau will send your request to the other two bureaus.

Fraud alerts can be placed on your credit reports for free, and there are three different types:

  • An initial (90-day) fraud alert can be placed if you believe you are or may become a victim of fraud or identity theft. The fraud alert lasts for 90 days. If you want to keep it active on your credit report, you'll need to renew it after that time. When you or someone else attempts to open an account in your name, increase the credit limit on an existing account, or try to get a new card on an existing account, the company must take reasonable steps to confirm you are who you say you are, such as contacting you by phone, before completing the request.

     

  • An extended fraud alert can be placed if you are a victim of fraud or identity theft. It requires a copy of a valid police or law enforcement agency report, or a Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Report. An extended fraud alert is similar to an initial fraud alert, but lasts for 7 years. With an extended fraud alert, a lender or creditor is required to verify your identity in person or by the contact method you specify when you place the extended alert -- a phone number, for example -- before opening new accounts or changing the credit limit on existing ones.

If you have an extended fraud alert on your credit reports, you are allowed to request two free credit reports  each year from the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). In addition, your name is removed from prescreened credit card or insurance offers for 5 years.

  • An active duty alert is available if you are on active military duty and want to help minimize your risk of fraud or identity theft while you are deployed. The active duty alert is similar to an initial fraud alert: companies must take reasonable steps to verify your identity before opening new accounts in your name or modifying existing ones. An active duty alert lasts for 12 months and your name is removed from prescreened credit card or insurance offers for 2 years.

     

 

How Do I Place a Fraud Alert?

If you’d like to place an initial 90-day fraud alert or an active duty alert on your Equifax credit report, you can do so online at the Equifax fraud alert website. You can also call Equifax at (888) 766-0008 or send a request by mail to:

Equifax Consumer Fraud Division
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, Georgia 30374

If you're mailing a fraud alert request, please be sure to include in your letter your name, Social Security number, address, date of birth and telephone number. For your protection, you will also need to mail copies of documents to verify your identity. Please click here for a list of acceptable documents.

To request an extended fraud alert, you’ll need to download a copy of the Equifax Extended Fraud Alert Request Form. Fill out the form and follow the instructions to fax or mail it to Equifax along with any required documents. Forms can be faxed to (888) 826-0597 or mailed to:

Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 105069
Atlanta, Georgia 30348

Generally within 24 hours of placing an online alert request, Equifax will send your alert request to the other two major credit bureaus.

 

What is a Security Freeze?

A security freeze, also known as a credit freeze, is a tool that can help prevent unauthorized access to your credit reports. Freezes were first created in the early 2000s, and are subject to regulation by each state. Once a freeze is placed on one of your credit reports, it prevents access to it by certain third parties, like lenders and creditors you’re requesting new credit from. 

This means if you’re applying for credit – buying a car or asking for a loan, for instance – you’ll need to temporarily lift or permanently remove your security freeze to allow a credit check. 

Security freezes must be placed on your credit report separately at each major credit bureau (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). You may pay a fee for placing, lifting, or removing a security freeze, depending on the state where you live. You should be sure to review the security freeze fees in your state.

There are some exceptions, which vary by state as to who can still access your credit report with a security freeze. Those include:

  • Companies like Equifax Global Consumer Solutions that provide you with access to your credit report or credit score or monitor your credit file
  • Companies you have an existing account or relationship with
  • Federal, state and local government agencies
  • Collection agencies acting on behalf of companies you owe
  • Companies that wish to make pre-approved offers of credit or insurance to you
  • Companies reviewing your application for employment

 

How Do I Place a Security Freeze on My Credit Reports?

The easiest and fastest way to place, temporarily lift or permanently remove a security freeze on your Equifax credit report is online by visiting the Equifax security freeze site.

You can also place or permanently remove a security freeze on your Equifax credit report by calling the Equifax automated service line at (800) 685-1111 (New York residents, please call (800) 349-9960).

You can also mail a written security freeze request to:

Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, Georgia 30348

You’ll need to include documents to verify your identity. Please click here to find a list of acceptable forms of identification.

To temporarily lift or permanently remove a freeze from your Equifax credit report, you’ll need the 10-digit PIN you received when the freeze was originally placed. If you don’t have your PIN or need to replace it, you may request a new one in writing by following the instructions below. In some states, you may pay a fee for replacing a PIN.

You may also need a form of payment. Equifax has waived the fee to add, lift or permanently remove a security freeze through January 31, 2018. Any freeze activities after January 31, 2018 may be subject to the fees provided by the state where you live. Click here for a list of security freeze fees by state.

We accept checks or money orders made out to Equifax. For VISA, MasterCard, Discover or American Express payment, please include your name as it appears on the card, the card number, and the expiration date.

To place, temporarily lift, or permanently remove a security freeze to your Experian or TransUnion credit report, you will need to contact them directly.

Experian: www.experian.com/freeze
TransUnion: www.freeze.transunion.com    

 

What is a Credit Report Lock?

A credit report lock or credit lock generally has the same impact on your credit report as a security freeze but isn’t exactly the same. Options to lock your credit report are available from each of the three major credit bureaus.

While both a credit report lock and a security freeze generally prevent access to your credit reports to open new credit accounts, a credit report lock may allow you to lock and unlock your credit report online or by mobile app without a PIN, using a username and password.

There are exceptions on who can still access your credit report if it’s locked, much like a security freeze. Those include:

  • Companies like Equifax Global Consumer Solutions that provide you with access to your credit report or credit score or monitor your credit file
  • Companies you have an existing account or relationship with
  • Federal, state and local government agencies
  • Collection agencies acting on behalf of companies you owe
  • Companies that wish to make pre-approved offers of credit or insurance to you
  • Companies reviewing your application for employment
  • Companies providing fraud detection and prevention

You can contact the three major credit bureaus to find out what options may be available to lock your credit reports.

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January 31, 2018

Learn about the Lock & Alert service and help control who has access to your Equifax credit report for free, for life.1

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Lock-Alert-Disclaimer

  1. Locking your Equifax credit file will prevent access to your Equifax credit file by certain third parties. Locking your Equifax credit file will not prevent access to your credit file at any other credit reporting agency. Entities that may still have access to your Equifax credit file include companies like Equifax Global Consumer Solutions which provide you with access to your credit report or credit score or monitor your credit file report; federal, state and local government agencies; companies reviewing your application for employment; companies that have a current account or relationship with you, and collection agencies acting on behalf of those whom you owe; for fraud detection and prevention purposes; and companies that wish to make pre-approved offers of credit or insurance to you. To opt out of such pre-approved offers, visit www.optoutprescreen.com.