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Topics addressed on February 20, 2008:
Adding a fraud alert after check fraud
I was a victim of check fraud. I was told I'm entitled to seven years of free fraud alerts as long as I have a police report. Is this true? The bad checks are rolling in now, and I am concerned that they might have opened up credit in our names as well.
Your situation is precisely why the system of security alerts and fraud victim statements exists. The role of the alerts is to help people who are identity theft victims stop credit fraud resulting from that identity theft.
Your case is a perfect example. Because check fraud does not involve accessing a credit report, neither a temporary security alert nor a fraud victim statement will stop the check fraud. But the alerts may help protect you from new credit fraud resulting from the theft of your identity if the identity thief attempts to open new credit accounts using your identifying information.
These services are available to everyone who is a victim at no charge.
Your first step is to add a temporary, initial security alert to your credit report. You can do so at www.experian.com/fraud. The alert is free and lasts for 90 days. That gives you time to get a copy of your credit report, which is also free, and ensure there is no credit fraud appearing on your report.
The alert is sent every time a lender or other business requests a copy of your credit report. It says:
Fraudulent applications may be submitted in my name or my identity may have been used without my consent to fraudulently obtain goods or services. Do not extend credit without first verifying the identity of the applicant. I can be reached at XXX-XXX-XXXXEXTXXXXX. This Security Alert will be maintained for 90 days beginning MM-DD-YY.
Initial security alerts are intended for people who know or have reason to believe they are at increased risk of credit fraud. For example, they may have lost their wallet or purse, or they may have received a notice that their identifying information was compromised as the result of a computer data breach.
For those individuals a temporary security alert may be all that is needed. If they find their wallet or purse, or the data is recovered and has not been accessed, they have no need to continue the alert because the threat no longer exists.
Because you know you are an identity theft victim and have a police report, you can take the next step and add a seven year fraud victim statement to your credit report. A fraud victim statement says:
Fraudulent applications may be submitted in my name or my identity may have been used without my consent to fraudulently obtain goods or services. Do not extend credit without first contacting me personally and verifying all application information at DAY XXX-XXX-XXXXEXTXXXXX or EVENING XXX-XXX-XXXXEXTXXXXX . This victim alert will be maintained for seven years beginning MM-DD-YY.
In order to add a victim statement you must first file a police report or valid identity theft report.
A victim statement lasts seven years, and like an initial security alert, is provided to every business that requests your credit report.
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act) greatly strengthened the alerts by requiring that businesses respond to them in a reasonable manner. Ignoring the alerts is now a violation of federal law.
Experian and the other national credit reporting companies share initial security alerts and fraud victim statements when you request them. All you have to do is contact one of the credit reporting companies and the alert will be added automatically by the others.
The credit reporting companies implemented the one-call process a number of years ago. They recognized the importance of making it as easy as possible for people at high risk of identity theft or who already were victimized to add the alerts so that they could begin the recovery process.
Thanks for asking.
- The "Ask Experian" team