How to set up a credit fraud alert in 3 easy steps
A fraud alert is a free, proactive step you can take to protect yourself against identity theft. By placing an initial fraud alert on your credit report, it is more difficult for criminals to open new accounts in your name.
Once a fraud alert is placed on your credit report, it will be visible to all lenders who check your credit. Usually, when a fraud alert is detected, a lender will need to take additional steps to verify that you are opening the account. For example, a lender may contact you at a phone number you provide with your fraud alert request or they may request a scanned copy of your driver’s license before granting credit.
A first fraud alert lasts for one year and can be renewed or canceled at your convenience. In fact, you may be able to activate an âautomatic fraud alertâ with the credit bureaus, which will automatically renew your fraud alert on each expiration. On the other hand, removing a fraud alert can be done quite easily online.
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What a fraud alert does not to do
To be clear, a fraud alert goes into effect on your credit report, not your individual credit accounts.
The most important flaw with fraud alerts is that they do nothing to protect your existing credit accounts. In other words, if a thief is trying to use a credit card they’ve taken from your wallet, a fraud alert alone won’t do anything to stop them from making purchases.
If you’re concerned that your credit card numbers or other existing credit account information has been compromised, don’t rely on a fraud alert to protect yourself from criminals. In these cases, you should immediately call your creditor and let them know. Once you do, it’s usually enough to cancel your existing credit card and mail a new one to yourself.
Fraud alert vs credit freeze
A fraud alert can make it harder for identity thieves to open credit accounts in your name, but there’s another step you can take: credit Freeze – this makes it impossible.
In short, a credit freeze allows you to deny anyone access to your credit report. So when credit is applied for on your behalf and a lender tries to view your credit score or credit report, they will not be able to and will therefore be unable to open an account.
Thanks to recent legislation, credit freezes are now free. Unlike fraud alerts, however, you must set up a credit freeze with each of the three credit bureaus individually, and the freeze will not expire until you choose to end it.
In summary, a credit freeze is a more extreme (and effective) step to take if you have reason to believe that your identity has already been compromised, or if you don’t plan to apply for new credit anytime soon and want to protect yourself as much as possible.
How to set up a fraud alert
Setting up a fraud alert is a fairly straightforward process. It’s free, and if you set up a fraud alert with one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion), they are required to notify the other two for you.
With that in mind, here’s what you need to do if you want to set up a fraud alert on your credit report:
1. Choose one of the three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian or TransUnion.
2. Complete this office’s fraud alert form, making sure to include your current contact information. Here are the links to each of the three:
3. Print, write down, or bookmark the web page that explains this office’s procedures for extending or removing the fraud alert.
In summary, a fraud alert can be a great proactive way to guard against identity theft and can be your first line of defense against the massive data breaches that we continue to see. A fraud alert does not protect your existing credit accounts, but can prevent identity thieves from opening new fraudulent accounts in your name.