Wall Street Journal - Putting a Freeze on Credit Thieves: A Look at Your Protection Options


Following the Equifax hack, consumers can protect their credit lines by requesting a fraud alert, a security freeze or credit monitoring

Consumers who have been affected by the Equifax Inc. EFX -9.73% data breach and seek to protect their credit lines may find themselves navigating a confusing maze of new terms, costs and responsibilities.

Security Freezes

A credit freeze will prevent a new creditor from accessing a consumer’s credit report. This move prevents anyone from opening a new line of credit in the name of the consumer who enacted the freeze.

David Edwards, president and wealth adviser at Heron Wealth in New York, says those who are past the stage where they’re job hunting, applying for a mortgage or opening new credit lines for other reasons should consider putting a freeze on their credit. He’s advising his clients, most of whom are past that stage, to do so, he says.

Those who may need a credit check to open a new line of credit can always ask the potential lender which credit firm they plan to check the credit history with, then unfreeze their credit with just that credit firm to allow the check, then replace it afterward, Mr. Edwards says. He recently froze his credit with just three five-minute telephone calls, he says.

Credit Monitoring

Even if other steps are taken, experts say consumers may want to consider having their credit monitored for suspicious activity. Such a service will generally alert consumers to credit inquiries, new credit lines and other important changes to one’s credit profile.

But consumers who want credit monitoring shouldn’t sign up for it with one of the credit firms, Mr. Edwards says. He suggests they go to a service such as Identity Guard, LifeLock or myFICO instead.

“I would never get credit monitoring from the credit bureaus. Consumers are not their customers; banks, credit cards and auto lenders are their customers,” he says.

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