A fraud alert on your credit file notifies creditors that there may be suspicious activity associated with your credit file and signals that they need to take extra steps to verify any requests for credit. A fraud alert acts as a red flag, but it does not prevent third parties from viewing your credit report.
There are three types of fraud alerts, and all are free: an initial fraud alert, an extended fraud alert, and an active duty alert.
Initial fraud alert
As the name implies, an initial fraud alert is for anyone who suspects that he or she has been a fraud victim but who is still investigating the case. Initial fraud alerts will remain on a credit file for 90 days and require creditors to take reasonable steps to verify the authenticity of requests for credit. With this type of fraud alert, you can also request that your credit file only display the last four digits of your Social Security number.
In addition to the three free credit reports per year that you are entitled to through AnnualCreditReport.com, an initial fraud alert will allow you one additional free credit report.
It may be wise to provide the national credit reporting agencies (CRAs) with a phone number. If you do so, lenders are required to call that number to ensure that you are in fact the person requesting the credit.
Extended fraud alert
An extended fraud alert lasts for seven years and is reserved for victims of identity theft. It requires that a creditor contact you in person, or through the telephone number or other contact method you designate, to verify that you have in fact made a request for credit.
In order to prove that you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you must submit an identity theft report, which consists of a police report and your personal statement about the identity theft, called an Identity Theft Affidavit. You can fill out the Identity Theft Affidavit online on the FTC’s website.
If you place an extended fraud alert on your account, you can request two additional free credit reports in the 12 months after you place the alert. You can also have your name removed from prescreened offers of credit or insurance for five years.
Active duty alert
An active duty alert is reserved for members of the military called to active duty. Service members are often unable to attend to their financial accounts in a timely manner due to their occupation. This alert provides extra security to their families while they are deployed.
An active military alert will remain on your credit file for 12 months and will remove your name from prescreened offers of credit for two years. If your deployment lasts longer than 12 months, you can place another alert on your credit file. Ideally, you’ll want to place the active duty alert before deploying.
How do you place a fraud alert?
In order to place a fraud alert or active duty alert on your credit file, contact one of the three national CRAs. Once it is filed, the information will be forwarded to the other two agencies. Note the date on which you requested the initial fraud alert. After 90 days, you may request a renewal of the alert.
To place an extended fraud alert on your credit file, send your identity theft report to one of the three national CRAs. For an active duty alert, you will need to provide personal identification and your military ID number in order to place the alert on your file.
A fraud alert should be on your credit file within 24 hours of filing it. If you do not receive confirmation, make sure to follow up with the CRA with which you made the request.
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