Personal Finance: Ask the Experts

Get advice on money matters from The Bee's Claudia Buck and a panel of local experts

June 24, 2013
Freeze or Fraud Alerts on your credit history: Do you need one?

In Sunday's column on being careful when getting your "free" credit report, we mentioned a couple of additional options for consumers: security freezes and fraud alerts.
Both are actions that you initiate with each of the three credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. In California, the state Attorney General's Office has how-tos on getting a security freeze.

Rocklin resident David Harry and his wife have had a security freeze on their files with the three credit bureaus for years. It's "a substantial safeguard (against) unauthorized credit access for fraudulent purposes," he said in an email.

Here's more detail:

You can place a fraud alert if you suspect there has been fraudulent activity involving your credit (ie. You're told by a store or credit card company that there's been a data breach of customer accounts.) It's akin to a red flag, warning anyone who accesses your credit history that possible fraud may be connected with your accounts.

A credit freeze takes it a step further. It lets you clamp shut any access to your credit reports by banks, lenders, insurance companies, potential employers, etc. It costs $10 per person to freeze your credit report with each of the three credit reporting bureaus. (A security freeze is $5 for those over 65; it's free if you've been a victim of identity theft and filed a police report.)

You have to make a separate request to each bureau. So if you're younger than 65, it would cost $30 total to freeze your credit history.

Once it's frozen, you can temporarily lift the freeze, such as when you're applying for a new credit card or loan. You can lift it for a specific time period or for a specific credit issuer, such as a mortgage lender.
The charge to temporarily unlock a credit freeze is $10 ($5 if you're 65 or older.)

Rocklin retiree Harry said "any inconvenience of having to authorize 'unlocks' is greatly outweighed by the enhanced security provided." He said he's even "tested" his security freeze by authorizing a credit issuer to check his credit history, then watch "with some amusement" when they discover they can't gain access.

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Meet Our Financial Experts

Claudia Buck

Claudia Buck is The Sacramento Bee's personal finance columnist. Read all her columns here. Contact her at

Terri Carpenter

Terri Carpenter offers advice on job hunting, retraining and career counseling. Carpenter works at Sacramento Works Inc., the career and job training arm of the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA). With 15 years in the field, she has hands-on experience with everyone from first-time job seekers to career professionals seeking advice after a layoff or looking for a mid-career change. Ask her a question.

Carlena Tapella

Carlena Tapella is a partner in the law firm of Webb & Tapella Law Corp. in Sacramento. The firm specializes in estate planning and probate, such as estates, trusts, conservatorships and litigation. She is a past president of the Sacramento County Bar Association's Estate Planning & Probate Section. Ask her a question.

Kimberly Foss

Kimberly Foss, certified financial planner, is the founder of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville. With nearly 30 years in the financial industry, her clients include women in transition, small business owners, retirees and "pre-retirees." Ask her a question.

Jesse Weller

Gregory Burke, a CPA and tax expert with John Waddell & Co. in Sacramento since 1984, worked as an IRS tax auditor for six years. He’s a past chairman of the California Society of CPAs. Ask him a question.

Daniel Tahara

Daniel Tahara takes your questions about California taxes. Tahara, a spokesman for the state Franchise Tax Board, has 10 years of experience as a tax auditor. Ask him a question.

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