Protect Your Credit with Alarms, Alerts, and Freezes - dummies

Protect Your Credit with Alarms, Alerts, and Freezes

By Steve Bucci

Alarms, alerts and freezes can offer you extra credit protection. In one of the greatest Three Stooges clips, the lads put a bucket of water above a partially open door. When someone comes through the door, a big crash announces the intruder. You may not be able to set up buckets of water, but you do have access to an array of early warning tools.


You can set an alarm to go off with your bank or credit card company by establishing certain parameters for notification. For example, if a check for a certain amount hits your checking account, you can elect to get an e-mail. You can do more for your accounts easily and for free. Check out your card’s website and look for options. You can also use texts or smartphone messages.

Fraud alerts

You can place a fraud alert on your credit file if you think that someone may be trying to compromise your information. Say you’re notified that your personal information was accessed in a data breach.

You may or may not have anything to worry about, but a fraud alert requires anyone using your report for new accounts or limit changes in the next 90 days to exercise extra caution and make sure that you’re actually the one doing the asking. You also get a free credit report from each bureau.

  • Extended fraud alerts: These longer-lasting alerts give you seven years for fraud alert protection and two additional free annual credit report reviews. You need to give the credit bureau a copy of the police fraud or identity theft report you filed.

  • Active-duty alerts: If you’re an active-duty military person, there’s an alert just for you. An active-duty alert lasts for one year on your credit report.

  • Widget alerts: Norton, the antivirus software company, has a free widget tool called the Norton Cybercrime Index that sits on your desktop or phone and warns you about real-time cyber crime so you can take preventative measures. The tool also provides in-depth information on cyber crime trends and patterns. Others will likely follow suit and offer this type of service soon.

Credit freezes

More serious than alerts, a freeze on your credit report locks your report. In order to review your report, a lender or other party would need to ask you to unfreeze your account. This request tips you off about any unauthorized inquiries right away and prevents new accounts from being opened without your permission. You may incur a small fee to unfreeze an account; it varies by state.

The Consumers Union website has state-by-state rules on credit freezes.