What is a fraud alert?
A fraud alert is like is like raising a “red flag” to warn other potential lenders and creditors. It is similar to a warning written on your credit report that gives alerts to other credit card companies and other lending institutions who are potential creditors that you may have been a fraud or identity theft victim.
Immediately report your predicament to any one of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion – to signal a fraud alert. Once a fraud alert is issued by one of the bureaus, that bureau will inform the other two bureaus of the warning. A fraud alert is placed on credit reports is free of charge.
What You Should Know About Fraud Alerts
After you contact Equifax or the other major credit bureaus, your credit reports get a 90-day fraud alert. Your fraud alert reported to the major credit bureau you contact is then passed on to the other two major credit bureaus. You can also file on your credit report a request for ask for seven years fraud alert, known as an extended fraud alert. For this purpose, you will need a police and/or identity theft report. To place and complete your request for an extended fraud alert, fill in the form from Equifax.
Aside from these three major credit bureaus, you can find more fraud alert information from many sources: link to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) websites, Equifax website, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) websites. For added educational materials, visit the website of your state Attorney General as its credit reporting agency has fraud-related topics, including types of fraud and what to do if you’re a fraud victim.
Types of Fraud Alerts
There are two main types of fraud alerts you can place in your credit reports. For the initial fraud alerts, you are entitled to a single and free credit report coming from each three consumer reporting companies. For the extended alerts, you are entitled to two free credit reports that are within a year from each coming from the three nationwide consumer reporting companies.
Fraud Alert Protection
A fraud alert has no assurance that there will be no credit issued under your name. Although after an alert, creditors take time to review your credit report before answering a credit application, sometimes, this does not happen.
For some banks, utilities, internet services and other kinds of accounts, a credit report is not deemed necessary. This is the reason why it is still necessary to monitor your credit report and watch for changes are even after you have a fraud alert placed.
After 90 days, your initial fraud alert expires and once it does, the credit bureaus will remove alerts automatically from your reports. After initial fraud alert is removed, you have the option to request another 90-day fraud alert if you consider that there is still at a risk for identity theft.
An extended fraud alert lasts seven years and can only be placed on your credit reports after you file an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission.
To place a fraud alert on your credit reports, contact one of the three major credit bureaus and request a different type if necessary, Other ways to protect yourself:
- Obtain a free credit report.
- Let the fraud alert expire if it’s no longer necessary.
- Renew the fraud alert.
Other options help prevent fraud and mitigate identity theft
- A good resource through the credit bureaus is a credit freeze. Almost like fraud alert, this option placed extra layers for security when new credit is requested under your name. The main difference is that your credit report can be accessed by both lenders and creditors for your account is under a security freeze. Rather than having a set time limit, you can lift the credit freeze at any time. Fees for the service of a freeze have to be paid but the amount varies from state to state. There are states offering this type of service for free while some states give certain discounts as privileges for seniors.
- Signing up for credit monitoring services are good ways of preventing identity theft. There is a wide range of services you can get depending on your needs and budget. Some free services are offered by reputable websites that are considered as simple as receiving a monthly notification of credit report changes. Keep your eyes opened by watching any suspicious credit activity especially newly open accounts that are easy to get and start fraudulent activities. More expensive credit safety services are available in giving 24/7 monitoring, sending text alerts, and even providing expert and strong support once you are endangered of identity theft.
These days, your financial identity protection is extremely important and a little vigilance can mean a lot. Reach out to a credit bureau for a temporary fraud alert anytime you are concerned about your credit security and personal information. And if you have experienced being a fraud victim, get an extended alert as fast as possible. Utilize some free time of your day to create a fraud alert so that you can eliminate identity theft. This is the best way of saving yourself from future trouble. Go ahead, be vigilant and do it — you’ll thank yourself later.