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What Is A Fraud Alert And How Does It Affect Your Credit?

Written by Robin Holland on June 21, 2010 in Credit  |   10 comments

Fraud Alerts: What They Are and How They Affect Your Credit By Robin Holland It can happen to anybody, but you never really think it will happen to you. A few weeks ago, I was on a business trip in Washington D.C. when my luggage…

Fraud alert information
Fraud Alerts: What They Are and How They Affect Your Credit By Robin Holland

It can happen to anybody, but you never really think it will happen to you.

A few weeks ago, I was on a business trip in Washington D.C. when my luggage was stolen out of the back of a cab. I had to deal with the massive headache of getting new clothes and toiletries, but I also had to worry about possible identity theft and fraud.

My wallet and credit cards were with me in my purse, but I had stuck a bank statement and a credit card bill in my suitcase at the last minute, planning to pay my bills on the road. My bank account information and credit card numbers were now in the hands of whoever stole my luggage. I’m sure the thief loved my three changes of business-casual wear and one-quart plastic baggie with mini bottles of soap and shampoo, but my financial information was no doubt a whole lot more valuable to him.

I immediately got online and went to Equifax to put a free, temporary ninety-day fraud alert on my account.

What Is a Temporary Fraud Alert?

An initial ninety-day fraud alert indicates to anyone requesting your credit file that you suspect you are a victim of fraud. When you or someone else attempts to open a credit account in your name, increase the credit limit on an existing account, or obtain a new card on an existing account, the creditor should take steps to verify that you have authorized the request. If the creditor cannot verify this, the request should not be satisfied.

When you file a fraud alert, you may also request one additional free credit report.

A fraud alert is a helpful tool anytime you feel your credit has been compromised or has the potential to be compromised. You don’t have to wait to be pick pocketed. Set up a temporary fraud alert if you think your accounts have been compromised in any way-for example, if you get a copy of your credit report and see accounts on it that you didn’t open, or if you see charges on your credit card statement that you didn’t make.

When you place a fraud alert, you don’t have to worry about contacting all of the credit reporting agencies and all of your creditors.

Once you place a fraud alert with one credit-reporting agency, the alert is automatically forwarded to the other agencies. This automatic reporting is helpful to you, because you don’t know which credit-reporting agency a creditor is using. It’s the same with fraud: you never know where the perpetrator is applying for credit and which credit-reporting agency is being used.

What Is an Extended Fraud Alert?

The temporary alert can be used by anyone who suspects fraud, but once you’ve established that your identity or your credit has been compromised, you can set up an extended alert to protect yourself.

An extended fraud alert is similar to an initial ninety-day alert, except that it lasts for seven years, and to verify your request a creditor must contact you at the telephone number(s) you provide to Equifax when you request the extended fraud alert. A valid police report showing that you have been a victim of identity theft is required to place an extended fraud alert. You can file a complaint with the FTC and fill out their ID Theft Complaint form to take to the police. Also, you may request two additional free credit file disclosures, and your name is removed from prescreened offers of credit or insurance for five years. Download an extended fraud alert request form.

Extended Alert vs. Automatic Alerts

The extended alert is available only if you are a confirmed victim of identity theft, but what if you want to restrict access to your credit to prevent identity theft? Using a product like Equifax ID Patrol, which includes the Automatic Fraud Alert feature, can help you do this.

Equifax is the only credit reporting agency that offers the Automatic Fraud Alert feature. The feature enables Equifax to place your free initial ninety-day fraud alert on your credit file. Then every ninety days the fraud alert will automatically be renewed for you. This tool can come in handy if you know you won’t have a lot of activity on your credit file and don’t want to worry about identity theft.

Let’s say you know you won’t be applying for a loan or any credit cards in the next year or so. With the Automatic Fraud Alert feature, you can rest assured, as I do, that no one will access your credit file illegally or steal your identity.

Read More.

10 comments

  1. jan says:

    Hello Folks,,,

    I have a serious problem that I had almost given up on. I was placing a Temporary alert on my report every 4 months – or at loeast I thought I was. Several months ago I attempted to purchase a 1500.00 computer from Dell on credit. I have a 808 credit score and figured no problem as far as financing with 0 charge for financing. Well Dell could NEVER pull a CBI on me. For some reason Equifax had installed an "Extended Fraud Alert" or 7 year alert on my credit report. I called and called and CALLED Equifax and never got any help from anyone. (0% of the people I tried to communicate could seak or understand English and the few % that did came back to me with totally unrelated reasons why it happened, and totally weird resolution suggestions. I got this "blog" in an email, and thought I would attempt to resolve the problem one more time. I hope that someone with Equifax that has some power sees my entry and helps me. An 808 credit score isn't worth a pinch of puppy stuff to me if my credit report is FROZEN. What would be nice is a phone number and persons name that I can tak to please.

    Tanks,

    AND

    Sincerely,

    JNW

  2. Equifax Experts says:

    JNW, you have to have a valid police report showing that you've been a victim of identity theft to actually have an extended fraud alert placed on your file, so it's definitely out of the ordinary that you're being told you have an extended fraud alert on your file. Have you pulled your Equifax Credit Report to find out whether you actually do have this extended alert on your file? You can get a free credit report at equifax.com or annualcreditreport.com. However, even if you do have an extended fraud alert on your file, it should not prevent the creditor from accessing your file. An extended fraud alert is similar to an initial 90 day fraud except that it lasts for seven years, of course, but also because it actually requires the creditor to verify your request at a telephone number you provide when you request an extended fraud alert. The creditor is not prevented from accessing your credit file like with a security freeze. If a creditor is indicating that they are unable to access your file, there could be another issue happening altogether.

    In the meantime, fraud alerts must be removed from your credit file in writing. You can submit a written request to Equifax at the following address:

    Equifax Information Services LLC
    PO Box 105069
    Atlanta, GA 30348-5069

    Be sure to include your name, social security number, current and previous addresses, date of birth, and telephone number.

  3. cyndecox says:

    I am a victim of a scam. They have my name, cell phone number and address. is this a concern? That’s all the information they have.

  4. Sam says:

    I have the same problem. Great credit score but cant get the stupid fraud alert removed and now when i try to apply for credit it comes back rejecting the inq. This is so dumb. Worst company ever.

  5. Frustrated says:

    Same! I can’t apply for anything and this happened 6 years ago!!!

  6. Simon says:

    Hey, I never placed a credit alert on my file. Today I tried to buy something and it came back that I have a credit alert on my file.
    How to remove this alert? Who placed it??

  7. Alan says:

    Does a 90 day fraud alert affect my use of my existing credit cards?

    • EFX Moderator says:

      Great question, Alan. If you put a fraud alert on your account, you’re letting creditors know to take extra steps to verify the legitimacy of a request for new credit, extension of credit on an existing account, or issuance of an additional card on an existing account. Fraud alerts do not prevent third parties from viewing your credit file; however third parties are required to take certain steps to verify that you have authorized the activity on your account if they see a fraud alert on the credit file. They still provide lenders with access to credit files and the ability to give credit to anyone they wish. Please take a look at this blog post for more details: http://blog.equifax.com/credit/fraud-alert-versus-security-freeze/

  8. booequifax says:

    same here! I hate this! Never placed an alert on my 90 day or anything else.

    • r murphy says:

      Same here,I received a letter today saying that I had requested a 90 fraud alert – I did not request this. I called your customer service and being that there was an obvious language barrier I got no where. Why are you doing this to us?


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