A fraud alert is an important step to take if you suspect that you may be falling victim to identity theft or fraud. There are different types of credit alerts for various circumstances. Learning about the different kinds can better prepare you to take action if any of your accounts become compromised.
In addition to learning about the different types of fraud alert, we’ll delve into some facts about fraud alert. We will also provide tips on what to do when faced with these kinds of situations.
- 1 What is a Fraud Alert?
- 2 Different Types of Fraud Alerts
- 3 Difference Between Extended Alerts and Automatic Alerts
- 4 Do They Affect Your Credit Score?
- 5 Placing an Alert
- 6 The Limits of Fraud Alerts
- 7 Removing a Fraud Alert
- 8 Deactivating Automatic Alerts
- 9 Important Facts
- 10 How to Protect Yourself
- 11 In Summation
What is a Fraud Alert?
Anytime you feel that you may be a victim of fraud or identity theft, you place an alert on your credit file. The purpose of the alert is so that creditors can take necessary steps to verify that any new requests are being made by you and no one else. These requests include establishing new credit accounts, increasing credit limit to an existing account, or issuing a new card for an existing account.
Different Types of Fraud Alerts
There are two main types of fraud alerts and three categories overall.
Initial Fraud Alerts
Initial fraud alerts are also referred to as 90-day fraud alerts. An initial credit fraud alert is placed if you believe that you are or are about to become victimized by either identity theft or fraud. This alert will stay on your file for 90 days.
By placing this alert, creditors take extra precautions to make sure any new credit requests are being made by you and no one else. If you provide a phone number, you will receive a call to verify any new requests being made in your name.
When an initial alert is placed on your file, you become eligible for a free copy of your credit report from each of the credit bureaus. This report does not count as your standard free annual report.
Extended Fraud Alerts
Extended fraud alerts differ from initial fraud alerts. These alerts are placed once you’ve established that your identity or credit have been compromised. Initial alerts only last for 90 days, but Extended Alerts last for seven years.
To file an Extended Alert, you will need a valid police report proving that you have fallen victim to identity theft or fraud. You will also be contacted by a creditor via the phone number that you provide.
You may choose to fill out an ID Theft Complaint Form and file a complaint with the FTC. The ID Theft Complaint form can be taken to the police as well. Your name is then taken off of prescreened offers of insurance or credit for five years. Additionally, you are eligible for two more free credit file disclosures. Equifax provides an Extended Fraud Alert Request Form here.
Active Duty Military Alert
Active Duty Fraud Alerts are the third type of alert. These fraud alerts are designed for those who are active military members and are deployed. The purpose of this alert type is to protect the credit and lower the risk of both ID theft and fraud during deployment.
Active Duty Military Alerts are similar to Initial Fraud Alerts. The difference between the two is that Active Duty Alerts last for one year as opposed to 90 days. With Active Duty Alerts, your name is taken off of all firm and pre-approved offers of credit for a two-year span.
Difference Between Extended Alerts and Automatic Alerts
The Automatic Fraud Alert feature is only provided by Equifax. Once activated, Equifax can add a free 90-day fraud alert to your credit file. From this point forward, the alert will be automatically renewed for you every 90 days. This tool is most useful for those who don’t expect much activity on their credit file and want to put their minds at ease.
For comparison, the Extended Alerts are only available once it has been confirmed that you are a victim of ID theft.
Do They Affect Your Credit Score?
In short, no. Adding a security alert to an account cannot affect your credit score in any way. The application may, however, be delayed from reaching the risk scoring stage.
Placing an Alert
To place any of the alerts discussed prior on your credit report, you will have to provide certain information that proves your identity. Examples of this proof include things such as name, address, Social Security number, and phone number.
Potential creditors must contact you depending on which type of fraud alert you are placing. They also need to take necessary steps to verify your identity. If you are trying to obtain credit during these processes, you may experience some delays. It is advisable to keep all of your contact information current so that there are no mixups or issues.
The Limits of Fraud Alerts
While placing an alert can go a long way in protecting you from fraud and identity theft, it is not a failsafe method. You can still be vulnerable in a couple of different ways. If an identity thief is using an existing credit card of yours or other accounts, you will not be protected.
Certain accounts can also be opened in your name without a credit check. A bank account would be an example of this. Placing a fraud alert on an account can be particularly useful in preventing identity theft that requires opening a new line of credit. If identity theft or fraud are already occurring when you place the alert, you will need to take further action to address it.
Removing a Fraud Alert
If you do not wish to wait until the Fraud Alert expires on its own, you may submit a written request to have it terminated early. To do so, you will be prompted to verify your identity.
Deactivating Automatic Alerts
The process for deactivating automatic fraud alerts are a little different. For Equifax fraud alert, at the bottom of your Automatic Fraud Alerts window, there is a button you can click. This button will end the alert once the current 90-day window expires.
You may also wish to have either TransUnion or Experian alerts removed before their expiration. To do so, you may contact them at their respective mailing addresses.
Before placing a fraud alert on your credit report, there are some points to take into account.
- A fraud alert may, in some cases, hinder your ability to receive immediate credit for purchases made in-store that you plan to own immediately
- You may be contacted by phone by creditors before opening a new account
- Daily credit card use or banking/checking accounts should not be affected in any way by fraud alerts
How to Protect Yourself
You might suspect that you are a victim of identity theft or fraud. If this is the case, the first step is to make sure you place a credit bureau fraud alert with each credit bureau. From there, Experian recommends following these guidelines throughout the process:
- Contact the creditor – Let them know that the account is fraudulent
- Document all contacts – Take note of each person you speak with throughout the process and the date in which you talked with them
- Understand how the process works – Different creditors have different procedures for claims. Make sure you know which steps you are responsible to take
- Follow up – Double check to be sure that everything you send out has been received
- Continue reviewing reports – Even though you may believe you’ve cleared everything up, it is important to keep tabs and be sure.
- Keep all of your files – Everything you’ve obtained throughout the process should be maintained on file. This way, if you ever have an issue in the future, you will know how to handle it.
We would all prefer not to be victimized by identity thieves or fraudulent activity in the first place, but unfortunately, it can happen to any of us. Understanding the differences in fraud alerts and the necessary steps to take is important. If your identity is compromised, this information can go a long way in helping you to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
Do you have experiences with fraud alert that you’d like to share? Be sure to let us know in the comments section!