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Fraud Alerts: How To Place Them and What To Know

TLDR

What You Need To Know

  • You can place a free fraud alert on your credit reports online, by mail or over the phone
  • When you place a fraud alert on your credit reports, you make it harder for an identity thief to open fraudulent accounts in your name and ruin your credit
  • Placing a fraud alert on your credit reports won’t impact your credit scores

Contents

Your credit reports are full of sensitive and personal information – information that could become quite harmful if it fell into the wrong hands. Being proactive about protecting your data is more than smart – it’s downright essential.

Although it’s impossible to keep your data 100% safe from data breaches and identity thieves, it never hurts to add an extra layer of protection to your credit reports. A fraud alert offers a free and easy way to accomplish that goal.

What Is a Fraud Alert?

Fraud alerts are signals to lenders who access your credit reports to exercise caution when issuing new credit in your name.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles you to place free fraud alerts on your credit reports.[1] When you place a fraud alert on your credit reports, you make it harder for an identity thief to open fraudulent accounts in your name and ruin your credit.

8 fraud alert facts

We’ve assembled a list of eight fraud alert facts. If you have any burning fraud alert questions, we’ve got answers.

  1. Placing a fraud alert on your credit reports won’t impact your credit scores.
  2. Placing a fraud alert on your credit reports is simple and free.
  3. You don’t have to contact all three credit reporting agencies to place a fraud alert. Place an alert with one credit bureau, and they’ll contact the other two on your behalf.
  4. With fraud alerts in place, lenders must contact you to confirm your identity before approving a new credit application attached to your Social Security number.
  5. When you place an online fraud alert on your credit reports, it shows up the same day.
  6. Fraud alerts have an expiration date. If you need to extend an alert, mark your calendar to remind you when the alert expires.
  7. You can update or remove an existing fraud alert for free at any time.
  8. You can designate another person to manage your fraud alert on your behalf with a power of attorney.

What Are the Different Types of Fraud Alerts?

You can place three different types of fraud alerts on your credit reports: initial fraud alerts, extended fraud alerts and active-duty fraud alerts.

Initial fraud alerts

This is the most basic fraud alert you can place on your credit reports. An initial fraud alert is requested by consumers who believe they have been or may become a victim of identity theft.

Thanks to a 2018 revision to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, an initial fraud alert may be placed on your credit reports for 1 year.[2]

Extended fraud alerts

Have you already been a victim of fraud or identity theft? You may want to place an extended fraud alert on your credit reports. Extended fraud alerts last for 7 years. You’ll also be removed from credit card and insurance offers for 5 years.

To place an extended fraud alert on your credit reports, you’ll need to send proof of identity theft – such as a police report or an identity theft report from IdentityTheft.gov – to one of the three credit reporting agencies along with your alert request.

Active-duty fraud alerts

Like civilians, when active-duty military members add an alert to their credit reports, lenders must take extra steps before opening new credit in their names. The alerts last for 1 year but can be renewed to match the length of deployment. An active-duty fraud alert will also remove your name from insurance and credit card offers for 2 years.

How Do You Place a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Reports?

There are three major credit bureaus (Equifax®, Experian™ and TransUnion®), but you only need to request a fraud alert with one of them to get the job done.

You can place a free fraud alert on your credit reports online, by mail or over the phone. Initial fraud alerts and active-duty fraud alerts can be placed online. To place an extended fraud alert, you’ll need to fill out a form and mail it to a major credit bureau.

You can add a fraud alert to your three credit reports using any of these methods:

Equifax® fraud alert

Here’s how to place a fraud alert with Equifax®:

  1. Visit the Equifax® Fraud & Active-Duty Alerts page.
  2. Select the “Place an alert” button.
  3. Select the type of fraud alert you want to request.
  4. Create an account and verify your email address or sign in to your account.
  5. You can place an initial or active-duty fraud alert. To place an extended fraud alert, you’ll need to download and mail an Extended Fraud Alert Request Form.
  6. Complete and submit your form to add fraud alerts to your three credit reports.

You can also call (800) 525-6285 to place an initial or active-duty fraud alert over the phone.

Experian™ fraud alert

Here’s how to place a fraud alert with Experian™:

  1. Visit the Experian™ fraud page.
  2. Select the “Add a fraud alert” option.
  3. Select the type of fraud alert you want to request.
  4. You can place an initial or active-duty fraud alert. To place an extended fraud alert, you’ll need to download and mail an Extended Fraud Victim Alert Request Form.
  5. Complete and submit your form to add fraud alerts to your three credit reports.

You can call (800) 397-3742 to place your initial or active-duty fraud alert over the phone.

TransUnion® fraud alert

Here’s how to place a fraud alert with TransUnion®:

  1. Visit the TransUnion® fraud alert page.
  2. Click the “Add fraud alert” button.
  3. Create a new account or log in to your existing account.
  4. Select your fraud alert type and click the “Add” button.
  5. You can place an initial or active-duty fraud alert. To place an extended fraud alert, you’ll need to download and mail an Extended Alert Request.
  6. Complete and submit your form to add fraud alerts to your three credit reports.

You can call (800) 680-7289 to place your initial or active-duty fraud alerts over the phone.

Fraud Alert vs. Credit Freeze: What’s the Difference?

Fraud alerts and credit freezes (also known as security freezes) are both tools you can use to help prevent the opening of fraudulent credit accounts in your name. But they aren’t the same thing.

Here is a look at some of the similarities and differences between fraud alerts and credit freezes.

Similarities

Free

Fraud alerts and credit freezes are free, according to federal law.[2]

Affects New Credit Accounts

Both fraud alerts and credit freezes may slow down the process of opening legitimate credit accounts.

No Effect on Credit Scores

Fraud alerts and credit freezes will not impact your credit scores.

Preapproved Offers

You might receive preapproved credit offers with certain fraud alerts or credit freezes in place.

Differences

How You Place Them

You’re only required to contact one of the major credit reporting agencies to get a fraud alert placed on all three of your reports. For credit freezes, you must contact each credit reporting agency individually.

Expiration Dates

Fraud alerts have a time limit. A credit freeze usually stays in place until you remove it.

Credit Report Access

Fraud alerts put lenders on notice to contact you when your credit reports are pulled for new credit applications. A credit freeze removes your selected credit reports from circulation so lenders can’t access them.

Similar to credit freezes, credit locks are another type of credit protection that blocks access to your credit reports, but they aren’t always free.

Don’t Get Played by Fraud

Fraud alerts put you on offense. They can be an effective tool to protect your credit. Fraud alerts let lenders know you have been or may become a victim of fraud, and they should take extra caution when new credit is being opened in your name. This makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open fraudulent accounts.

Want to cover all your bases? Get credit monitoring and go on defense against unwelcome and unauthorized activity.

Consider starting with a fraud alert and ramp up your protection from there if you need to. There’s no such thing as keeping your credit reports too safe.

  1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.” Retrieved June 2022 from https://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/bcfp_consumer-rights-summary_2018-09.pdf

  2. Federal Trade Commission. “New freeze law in effect September 21st: Is your business ready?” Retrieved June 2022 from https://www.ftc.gov/business-guidance/blog/2018/09/new-freeze-law-effect-september-21st-your-business-ready

ICYMI

In Case You Missed It

  1. Fraud alerts have an expiration date. If you need to extend an alert, mark your calendar to remind you when the alert expires

  2. Place a fraud alert with one credit bureau, and they’ll contact the other two on your behalf. You don’t have to contact all three credit reporting agencies

  3. You can place three different types of fraud alerts on your credit reports: initial fraud alerts, extended fraud alerts and active-duty fraud alerts

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