How to set up a fraud alert to protect your credit and identity
Identity theft and fraud have been on the rise for years. Although exact numbers vary widely and are likely underreported, the Federal Trade Commission received 4.7 million criminal activity complaints in 2020, compared to 3.2 million in 2019, with credit card fraud being one most commonly reported forms of identity theft.
A painful type of financial crime occurs when fraudsters open new credit accounts – by applying for multiple credit cards or taking out loans – in your name. This can hurt your credit health and take time and effort to resolve. One way to mitigate potential disasters is to set up fraud alerts on your credit reports.
“Credit fraud alerts are put in place to protect customers from possible fraud, which typically involves credit card theft or identity theft,” said Jim Pendergast, senior vice president of the commercial lender. Alabama-based altLINE. “It reduces identity theft, which benefits everyone: borrowers can maintain a high credit rating while creditors can offer loans to more people.”
How do fraud alerts work?
Fraud alerts are offered by the “Big Three” credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. These agencies, also known as credit bureaus, provide lenders and creditors with information about your credit history when you apply for a credit card, car loan, mortgage, rental lease, or any other type line of credit.
If you have credit bureau fraud alerts enabled and a financial institution or other lender tries to “pull” your credit file for review, the lender will need to contact you and confirm that you are the person requesting a new account.
Unlike a credit freeze, which locks access to your credit report until you “unfreeze” it, a fraud alert still allows a potential lender to view your credit report. You can just expect a call to verify that it was your app that triggered the pull request. Fraud alerts do not affect your credit score.
How to set up a fraud alert on your credit files
To set up fraud alerts, you need to contact only one of the three major credit bureaus. Once you request fraud alerts from one agency, that agency must forward your request to the other two. You can call or submit your information online to start the process.
When you request online fraud alerts, you will be required to provide the credit reporting agency with certain personal information, including your name, social security number, date of birth, phone number, and current address. If you do not already have an account with the credit bureau, you may also need to create a username and password during this process, either at the beginning of the process (TransUnion) or before be able to verify your application (Equifax).
With Experian, you can activate fraud alerts using a recent credit report number and your social security number, or by entering similar personal information. You don’t need to create an account to do this.
To delete an alert, return to the same customer service page and select “Manage Alert” (Equifax), “Delete Fraud Alert” (Experian and TransUnion) or log in to the credit bureau account you created .
What are the different types of fraud alerts?
Each credit bureau offers three types of fraud alerts for credit reports. The standard option is a one-year fraud alert, renewable at the end of the mandate. This is the best option for most consumers who are wary of fraud and just want to be on the safe side. With a Basic Fraud Alert, you get a free copy of your credit report from each bureau when you submit the request. You can renew the alert every year.
An extended fraud alert lasts for seven years and is available to consumers who have been victims of identity theft. You must have filed an identity theft report with the FTC, or filed a police report and submitted this documentation to the credit bureau, to confirm your eligibility. This makes the setup process a little more complicated, as you will need to apply by mail. However, this option is also free and you get two copies of each credit report per year for the duration of the alert period.
Finally, active duty military members can select an active duty alert, which lasts for one year and can then be renewed for the duration of the deployment. Placing an extended alert or an active alert will also remove you from credit bureau marketing lists for five years and two years, respectively.
Getting a copy of every credit report once or twice a year is a useful benefit of fraud alerts. However, until April 20, 2022, you can request a free credit report each week from each bureau without going through the fraud alert process. After that, the free rate reverts to once a year.
Should you activate fraud alerts on your credit files?
Short answer: Yes, probably. There’s no compelling reason not to add this extra layer of protection for your credit records. And while a fraud alert doesn’t offer a 100% guarantee that identity thieves won’t be able to open new lines of credit in your name, it would be technically possible for a fraudster to get the call and confirm your information or completely dismiss the alert. – it complicates them further.
If you think you’re at risk of identity theft because you’ve lost your wallet or your digital information has been leaked, you should definitely place a fraud alert – this is an especially critical first step to take. .