When you place a fraud alert on your credit reports potential creditors must use what the law refers to as “reasonable policies and procedures” to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name. It is useful in stopping identity theft that involves opening a new line of credit. However, the steps potential creditors take to verify your identity may not always alert them that the applicant is not you.
There are two kinds of fraud alerts – initial one is described above and lasts for 90 days. An extended fraud alert stays on your credit report for seven years. You can have an extended alert placed on your credit report if you've been a victim of identity theft and you provide the consumer reporting company with an Identity Theft Report. An automated Identity Theft Report, such as the printed ID Theft Complaint available from the FTC web site, should be sufficient to obtain an extended fraud alert. With an extended fraud alert, potential creditors must actually contact you, or meet with you in person, before they issue you credit. When you place an extended alert on your credit report, you're entitled to two free credit reports within twelve months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus. In addition, the consumer reporting companies will remove your name from marketing lists for pre-screened credit offers for five years unless you ask them to put your name back on the list before then.
A credit freeze restricts access to your credit report. This means that it’s unlikely that an identity thief would be able to open a new account in your name. When you place a credit freeze, potential creditors and other third parties will not be able to get access to your credit report unless you temporarily lift the freeze. If you’ve frozen your credit reports, you need to plan head if you’re going to be seeking a loan or a new line of credit. Placing a credit freeze does not affect your credit score – nor does it keep you from getting your free annual credit report, or from buying your credit report or score.
Credit freezes are useful in stopping identity thieves from opening new lines of credit or accounts in your name.
Credit freezes in Montana:
All consumers, and you don’t have to have a reason
No fees for identity theft victims.
All others pay $3 to EACH credit bureau to place the freeze or to lift it temporarily. $5 to have PIN reissued.
No fee to remove the freeze altogether.
Placing a freeze: You can:
• send a WRITTEN request to EACH of the credit bureaus by certified mail.
• Request the freeze electronically or by phone:
Credit bureaus have 5 business days from receiving your letter to place the freeze and 5 more days after placing the freeze to send you a confirmation letter with your PIN/password. If you are an identity theft victim, they have 24 hours to place the freeze after receiving your request.
Lifting a freeze:
When requested in writing, it can take 3 days to lift a freeze after they receive the request.
If requested electronically or by phone, it can take up to 15 minutes to lift a freeze.