With the recent security breach at Equifax, many of our customers have become interested in fraud alerts and security freezes. It’s easy to confuse them, but they are not the same.
A fraud alert signals credit grantors that you may have been a victim of suspicious activity. They prompt these creditors to take extra steps to verify the legitimacy of each request for credit on your behalf. Fraud alerts do not prevent third parties from viewing your credit file, they simply add steps that verify that you authorized the activity. A fraud alert lasts for a predetermined length of time and is generally free.
On the other hand, a security freeze stops third parties from accessing your credit file without a secret code that only you can provide. It gives you more control over who looks at your credit file (though your information will still be disclosed in certain situations – when requested by companies you do business with, like your mortgage company or credit card provider, for example). A security freeze stays in effect until you remove it, and often costs money to request.
To initiate either of these fraud-protection measures, contact one of the three consumer credit reporting agencies:
PO Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
PO Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
PO Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
To learn more about identity theft, call the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338) or go online to www.ftc.gov/idtheft.