In September 2018, a new federal law was passed extending fraud alerts to one year and making it free to put on a credit freeze. The Federal Trade Commission’s website has more information about the new law and also a helpful FAQ page. This new law is a positive change to the previous 90-day fraud alerts and $30+ credit freeze charge especially considering that there are new security breaches almost every week. If you are concerned that your personal information may have been compromised, you may want to consider using a fraud alert or freeze to help protect your identity. A fraud alert will stay on your report for a full year and you only have to contact one of the credit bureaus (and they contact the other two). A credit freeze will stay on your report until you remove it. It is your responsibility to contact each bureau separately to apply the freeze.
Even if you have a fraud alert or credit freeze in place, it is still important to be vigilant about monitoring your credit and personal information. Never enter credit card information on a website that isn’t secure and review your credit card and bank statements in detail. If you use online banking, it is a good idea to check your charges online frequently (at least once a week) to verify that all charges are legitimate. Also, remember that you can obtain a free credit report from each bureau once a year.