If you listen to the news, you may be concerned about the safety of your information. Identity theft grows by the day and you may want new ways to protect yourself. Social Security numbers are one of the most stolen pieces of information and quite possibly the most dangerous to have stolen. If you want to prevent someone from opening a line of credit in your name, what should you do? You may have considered placing a fraud alert or credit freeze on your file. These can be great options, but what are the differences?

Fraud Alert

Placing a fraud alert on your credit file is like putting an extra hurdle in front of an identity thief. If someone tries to open a line of credit under your account, the creditor must take extra measures to confirm the identity of an applicant. When the creditor runs your credit, they will see a fraud alert and you will be notified. This will allow you to put a stop to the fraudulent activity. 

A fraud alert can be placed on your account by contacting one of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion or Equifax). Whichever bureau you contact is required by law to contact the other two bureaus who will also place an alert on your file. Fraud alerts are free and run for 90 days. If you wish to have it go longer, you can renew the alert.

Fraud alerts are a great option if you feel like your information may be compromised but you aren’t yet a victim of identity theft.

Credit Freeze

Placing a credit freeze on your credit file is like putting a brick wall in front of an identity thief. A credit freeze allows only companies you already do business with to view your file. Those businesses will still be unable to open a line of credit under your file while the freeze is active.

In order to place a credit freeze on your file, you must contact all four of the credit bureaus (Innovis, in addition to the three major bureaus). The reason is because different companies purchase information from different bureaus, so you have to freeze with all four to have a complete freeze.

You will most likely be required to pay a fee to start a freeze. You will be sent a letter with a specific PIN from the credit bureau. In order to lift the freeze so that you can apply for credit, you will need to pay another fee and provide the PIN. Credit freezes are indefinite unless you live in Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Kentucky or South Dakota. In these states, credit freezes expire after 7 years. 

Credit freezes are a great option if you know you are already a victim of identity theft.

Also, you can now place a credit freeze on your child, for free, anywhere in the US.

Credit Bureau Information

Experian: www.experian.com– (888) 397-3742

TransUnion:www.transunion.com– (800) 916-8800

Equifax: www.equifax.com– (888) 349-5191

Innovis: www.innovis.com– (800) 549-2505

Is a fraud alert or credit freeze the right option for you? We hope you now have a better idea of the differences between the two.