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Placing a fraud alert on your credit report can help protect you from criminals trying to open credit accounts in your name—but it doesn't last forever. Initial fraud alerts and active-duty alerts expire after one year, and extended fraud alerts remain on your credit reports for seven years unless you request the alert to be removed sooner.
It's free to request a fraud alert, and you have the right to request a new one to be added once the current one expires. You also have the option to place a security freeze on your credit reports, and your reports will stay frozen until you thaw them.
The Different Types of Fraud Alerts
There are three types of fraud alerts: initial alerts, extended alerts and active-duty alerts. All three tell creditors that you may be at heightened risk for identity theft or have been a victim of identity theft. Creditors should then take reasonable steps to verify your identity before extending you credit (such as opening a new account or increasing your credit limit). Additionally, with extended and active-duty alerts, your name will be taken off of lists for preapproved credit and insurance offers.
|Types of Fraud Alerts
|Initial Fraud Alert
|Extended Fraud Alert
|When to use
|You suspect you've been or may become a victim of identity theft
|You've filed an FTC identity theft report or a police report
|You're an active-duty service member and want to protect your credit file
|Removed from prescreened credit and insurance offers
|For 6 months
|For 5 years
|For 2 years
Initial Fraud Alert
Initial fraud alerts, also called temporary fraud alerts or temporary security alerts, are for people who suspect they've been or will likely be a victim of fraud. For example, if you lose your wallet or do a dark web scan and see your personal information is compromised, a fraudster may be able to access or buy your information and then try to open an account in your name.
Extended Fraud Alert
An extended fraud alert, sometimes called a fraud victim statement, is for victims of identity theft. These alerts last longer, but you need to submit a copy of a police report or a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) identity theft report from IdentityTheft.gov to qualify.
An active-duty alert is for active-duty military members. It can be helpful for military members, especially those serving overseas, who might be more prone to identity theft while they're deployed. Additionally, you can get a free credit report and ongoing credit monitoring from Experian with IDNotifyTM.
How to Request or Remove a Fraud Alert
Requesting to add or remove a fraud alert is always free. For all three types of alerts, you only need to submit the request to one of the three major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion or Equifax—and it will forward your request on to the other two.
You can use Experian's Fraud Alert Center to add an initial or active-duty alert to your credit report online. You can also upload a copy of your identity theft report or police report to request an extended fraud alert, or submit the request and supporting documents by mail.
While fraud alerts can last one to seven years, you can remove them early using online or mail options. Though requests to add a fraud alert can be submitted to one bureau and are forwarded to the other two, to remove a fraud alert, you need to contact each of the three major credit bureaus separately to process your request.
Is a Fraud Alert Right for You?
If you suspect or know you've been a victim of identity theft or fraud, or you're actively deployed, adding a fraud alert could help protect you from credit fraud. You also have the right to reapply for another free fraud alert if your initial alert expires.
Another option is to freeze your credit files, which keeps potential new creditors from accessing your credit reports to open new accounts, although there are many exceptions. Freezing and unfreezing your credit reports is also free; however, you need to request the freeze from each bureau individually. You'll also need to remember to unfreeze your reports with each bureau whenever you want to apply for a loan or credit card.
How Else Can You Protect Your Identity and Credit?
In addition to fraud alerts and credit freezes, there are a few steps you can take to help protect your identity and financial accounts:
- Don't share your personal information with anyone who initiates contact with you by email, phone or text message unless you're expecting the message.
- Use multifactor authentication to help keep your accounts secure.
- Use a password manager to create strong and unique passwords for your accounts.
- Request electronic statements to avoid the risk of mail fraud.
- Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks, and never log in to your online accounts if you're on a public network.
Despite your best efforts, it's important to be aware of what's happening with your accounts in case a fraudster or hacker slips past your defenses. Your personal information could also be leaked in a data breach, which could increase your risk of identity theft or fraud.
Monitor Your Credit and Identity for Suspicious Changes
You can keep an eye on your credit reports with free credit report monitoring from Experian. You'll automatically receive alerts if there's a potentially suspicious change, such as a new credit inquiry or account. Experian also offers identity theft protection services, which include monitoring of additional databases, dark web monitoring, identity theft insurance, lost wallet assistance and access to U.S.-based fraud resolution specialists.