Placing a fraud alert on your files indicate potential lenders that they should exercise further caution in reviewing and evaluating your application (as by contacting you directly). Therefore, at any time you attempt to open a new account while a fraud alert is in place you may need to be available at the phone number or other contact method you provided in order to approve the opening of a new credit account. If you are not available, the creditor may not open the account.
Other Factors You Should Consider:
Credit report fraud alert will not necessarily prevent someone from opening an account in your name. In particular for an initial fraud alert, a creditor is not required by law to contact you. If you suspect that you are or have already been a victim of identity theft, fraud alerts are only a part of protecting your credit. You should also pay close attention to your credit file to make sure that the only credit inquiries or new credit accounts in your file are yours, and you should consider locking your files at the 3 major credit bureaus. Other measures may also be warranted depending on your particular situation.
Types of Fraud Alert
There are three different types of credit fraud alert:
- Initial Fraud Alert – Stays on your credit report for 90 days. This type of alert is suitable as a preventive first aid action, in case that you have reason to suspect that your personal information was stolen.
After 90 days you will have to manually extend the alert for another 90-day period. Some bureaus offer their customers an Automatic Fraud Alert feature which takes care of the 90 day renewals automatically
- Active Duty Alert – Available only to active duty military personnel. If you are a member of the military and away from your usual duty station, you may place an active duty alert on your credit report to help minimize the risk of identity theft while you are deployed.
When a business sees the alert on your credit report, it must verify your identity before issuing credit on your name. It may try to contact you directly, but if you’re on deployment, that may be impossible. As a result, the law allows you to use a personal representative to place or remove an alert.
Active duty alerts on your report are effective for one year, unless you request that the alert be removed sooner. If your deployment lasts longer, you need to manually extend it for another year.
- Extended Fraud Alert – Stays on your credit report for 7.5 years. Unfortunately, it is available only to people that have already been victimized. To place an extended alert you would need to provide an identity theft report – a copy of the report you have filed with a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency.
Possible Drawbacks of Fraud Alerts
Fraud alert have a two main drawbacks:
- Unlike Credit Freeze, fraud alerts will not necessarily prevent someone from opening an account in your name. In particular for an initial fraud alert, a creditor is not required by law to contact you.
- An initial fraud alert will only last 90 days, and you will need to extend it manually every 90 days. Some bureaus offer their customers an Automatic Fraud Alert feature which takes care of the 90 day renewals automatically.
What are the differences between Fraud Alert and Security Freeze?
There are four major differences between Fraud Alert and Credit Freeze:
- While fraud alert only attaches a warning to your credit reports and scores, credit freeze actually blocks access of potential creditors, and is therefore much more efficient in preventing fraud.
- While an initial fraud alert lasts only 90 days and has to be manually extended, credit lock lasts indefinitely – until you actively remove it.
- While placing fraud alert with any one of the 3 major credit bureaus automatically puts fraud alert with the other two bureaus, credit freeze must be placed separately with each bureau.
- While placing fraud alerts is free of charge, credit freeze costs money.
Credit Fraud Alert Fees
Everyone is entitled to place an initial 90 days fraud alert on their credit file for free – which can be extend every 90 days.
Placing a Fraud Alert
You may place a fraud alert in your file by calling just one of the 3 major credit bureaus. As soon as that bureau processes your fraud alert, it will notify the other two, which then also must place fraud alerts on your file. Generally, a fraud alert will be placed on your credit file with all three major credit bureaus within 48 hours.
Equifax Consumer Fraud
When requesting a credit fraud alert by mail, please be sure to include your name, social security number, current and previous addresses, date of birth, and telephone number. For your protection, you will also need to verify your identity. See Acceptable Forms of Identification to learn more.
Removing a Fraud Alert
You can either allow the fraud alert to expire or remove it prior to expiration with a written request. Please send your written request to the address supplied above.