What are Fraud Alerts & How to Request One

Ever been the victim of identity theft? If so, you might’ve received a fraud alert.

Fraud alerts are notifications placed on your credit report to warn creditors and lenders that you may be a victim of identity theft. These alerts serve as a red flag, prompting financial institutions to take extra steps to verify your identity before granting credit in your name.

Fraud alerts act as a security checkpoint, signaling potential lenders about possible fraudulent activities. They’re typically created when you suspect that your personal information has been compromised, such as a stolen wallet or a data breach involving your credit card company.

Types of Fraud Alerts

There are three types of fraud alerts: an initial alert, an extended alert, and an active duty alert. Each serves different purposes but all aim to protect consumers from identity theft.

Initial Alert

An initial fraud alert is the most common type of fraud alert. It lasts for one year and can be renewed after it expires. This type of alert requires creditors to take steps to verify your identity before issuing new credit in your name.

Extended Alert

An extended fraud alert lasts for seven years and is available to those who have already been victims of identity theft. This type of alert requires creditors to take extra precautions, such as contacting you personally before granting credit in your name.

Active Duty Alert

Active duty alerts are specifically designed for members of the military who are deployed away from their usual duty station. These alerts last for one year and can be renewed as long as the member is still deployed. This type of alert provides extra protection to those in active military service.

Key Points You May Not Know About Fraud Alerts

If you believe that your personal information has been compromised, it’s important to place a fraud alert on your credit report immediately. You can do this by contacting any one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion). Once one bureau receives an alert, they are required to notify the other two bureaus.

But, you probably already knew that. So next, we’ll rundown seven things about fraud alerts that may come as a surprise to you:

Fraud Alerts May Cause Slight Delays in Future Lending

Fraud alerts persuade credit lenders in taking additional precautions to verify your identity before granting credit. This will likely result in a slower process when applying for new credit. But, the added security is worth the delay in most cases.

You Only Need to Request One Fraud Alert

Once you place a fraud alert with any of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion). That alert automatically gets forwarded to the other two, sparing you from redundancy and saving time.

Valid for One Year

An initial fraud alert is valid for a year, and it obligates credit lenders to adopt judicious procedures for identity verification. If you are still experiencing fraud attempts after the initial year is over, you can extend the fraud alert time span another year. This process can continue to occur until you get rid of the alert by contacting one of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies.

Not the Same as a Credit Freeze

A fraud alert is not the same as a credit freeze. A fraud alert simply adds an extra layer of security to your account, while a credit freeze stops any and all access to your credit report without specific authorization from you. Fraud alerts do not impact your ability to use existing lines of credit or obtain new lines of credit that you already have established relationships with.

You Can Cancel Anytime

The flexibility of updating or removing fraud alerts is open to you. You can do this individually by contacting any credit reporting agency. Each agency has unique methods for initiating, maintaining, and removing fraud alerts. But, as mentioned above, you can also request an extended fraud alert which is valid for seven years if you have been a victim of identity theft.

You Can Designate a Manager

Fraud alerts can be managed by a personal representative on behalf of an individual holding a Power of Attorney or any court-appointed document. This legal representative can maintain, update, renew, and remove the fraud alert on behalf of the individual. However, the person must provide appropriate identification documents and proof of authority to act on behalf of another individual.

How to Request a Fraud Alert

Requesting a fraud alert is a straightforward process.

To initiate a fraud alert, simply contact any one of the three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion — via their website, phone, or mail. Remember, you only need to call one of the three credit bureaus:

  • Call Equifax to Request an Alert: (800) 525-6285
  • Experian to Request an Alert: (888) 397-3742
  • Call TransUnion to Request an Alert: (800) 680-7289

The alert is free, but the credit bureau will request key pieces of information from you. For instance, you will need to provide personal identification information, such as your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. You may also be required to submit documentation verifying your identity.

You’ll need to determine whether you need an initial, extended, or active duty military alert. Then, once the fraud alert is placed, it will be active for one year. But, you can cancel at any time if no longer necessary. This will not affect your credit score.

Stay Vigilant

Even with a fraud alert in place, it is still crucial to stay vigilant and regularly monitor your credit report for any suspicious activity. Fraudsters are constantly finding new ways to steal identities and commit fraud. By staying informed and proactive, you can protect yourself from potential fraudulent activities and minimize any damages that may occur.