What are Fraud Alerts?
When you’re looking to protect your account you want to make sure that you have fraud alerts prepared on your account. It’s going to give you a little bit more protection and let you know if anything is happening on your account.
In fact, a fraud alert means that someone who is looking to grant credit in any form must double-check to make sure that it is you who is opening the account.
It means that they need to follow additional steps that might include contacting you at a specific phone number or checking additional information. This is intended to make sure that someone other than you isn’t able to open new accounts, however it does nothing to protect the accounts you already have open.
Why Do You Need a Fraud Alert?
Experian, Transunion and Equifax are the credit bureaus that are charged with keeping your personal credit history. That information and your credit history is used any time you try to get credit such as a personal loan, car loan or mortgage. It can also be used in some ways by potential employers and even by potential landlords. If someone uses your credit or your name improperly, the fraud alert on your account will help you to spot it quickly so you could make sure they can’t open any accounts under your name.
This is important because it means you won’t get any more negative, fraudulent information on your credit report, which could hurt you when it comes to all of the things we discussed and more.
A fraud alert is something you put on your credit report so that if someone tries to check your credit they know they need more information. It lasts for one year and it’s entirely free. It means that the credit institution must contact you in some way to verify you are who you say you are and you are the one looking for the credit.
Types of Fraud Alerts
So, what do you do if you suspect some type of fraud or danger of fraud on your accounts? You’re going to want to look at the different options to decide what works best for you.
- Initial fraud alert
- Active duty fraud alert
- Extended fraud alert
Initial Fraud Alert
The first type of fraud alert that you need to know about is the initial fraud alert. This is what you do if you think that you’ve lost any kind of financial information or a credit card. It’s something that you put on your card immediately.
The initial alert is good for only 90 days, making it difficult for anyone who might have stolen your card or your wallet to do anything with it. At least, they can’t open any additional credit. But they can use the cards that are in the wallet if you don’t put a freeze on them as well.
What’s even more important is that you call immediately to the fraud alert hotline to provide your social security number, your mailing address and your birth date to verify that you can initiate a fraud alert.
You will only get 90 days on this fraud alert but you will be able to renew the alert if you need to.
You just need to make sure that you remember to do so. If it expires you won’t have any additional protection for your account. You will also be able to get a free credit report from your credit reporting agencies as well.
Active Duty Alert
The next option is an active duty alert, which is designed for those who are actively serving and about to be deployed. It lasts for a full year and will be able to be extended for as long as you are actively deployed with the military.
Because you are out of the area and you are not going to be applying for any type of credit this provides an added level of protection for your accounts and your credit. You would need to show proof of your identity in order to get this type of protection.
Even better, this also removes you from prescreened credit offers for a period of two full years.
Extended Fraud Alert
An extended fraud alert is the final option and gives you up to seven years of protection.
You must prove that your identity has been stolen before you will be able to use this type of alert. You will need to file an identity theft report through the Federal Trade Commission in order to prove this.
Once you do this you will be able to send in the proof of your identity theft and get the extended alert set up for the next seven years to provide added protection for your account.
How to Set Up Fraud Alerts
When it comes to setting up fraud alerts they actually aren’t as difficult as you might think. You only need to request one fraud alert, from one credit bureau, and it will be active for all of them. They are required to contact each other if they receive a request for any of the above forms of fraud alerts.
If you need to place an initial alert or an active duty alert you can do so easily through the online system. On the other hand you’ll need specific documentation in order to place an extended fraud alert. Make sure you look at just when you’ve applied for the alert and when you are able to renew them so you don’t miss out.
- Experian – Select ‘add a fraud alert’ to place an alert on your account. You will then be given the option of which type of fraud alert to place and given the opportunity to select the one that applies to your situation.
- Equifax – Select to place a free fraud alert or active duty alert. The website will then walk you through the simple steps that it takes to place the alert.
- Transunion – Select to add a fraud alert and then choose which type of fraud alert you want to place. From there you will be walked through the process of completing the alert.
Thieves are good at getting your social security number or your personal information and then opening accounts under your name. The good news is that a lender wants to know that you’re a good candidate before they agree to give you any form of credit, so they will check with a credit reporting agency.
Once that credit reporting agency gets the request they send your information, or they send a fraud alert to let the creditor know they need to double-check the information they’ve been given.
Removing a Fraud Alert
Another good thing is that removing a fraud alert can be simple as well.
No matter which type of fraud alert you place you can contact one of the three credit reporting bureaus to let them know about any of the changes you want to place on the alert.
You can wait for the alert to expire or you can contact the credit reporting agency to make the request to remove them. Transunion will allow you to remove the alert through their online portal while Experian requests a written letter. Equifax requires a written request as well as additional documentation.
Will a Fraud Alert Hurt My Credit Score?
A fraud alert will not affect your credit score or your ability to get any type of credit. It will make it a little bit more complex or time-consuming to complete an application, however you will still be able to get the credit that you need or want even with a fraud alert in place.
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act requires that a lender who receives a credit report with a fraud alert follow specific steps in order to verify who you are and/or contact you.
There may even be a special process that you need to go to in order to still get credit even with the fraud alert.
If there is a need for a manual review process you may be contacted and required to provide additional information to verify your identity. If this process is not possible the application may be denied because the creditor is unable to fulfill their requirements and obligations under the FACT Act.
You may also be required to contact the central credit office or you might get additional instructions for how to apply for credit through a written application and additional documentation to be approved.