Placing a fraud alert on your credit report only takes a few minutes, and if you have any concerns that your credit accounts or personal identifying information (such as your passwords or Social Security number) have been compromised, it'll be time well spent.
A fraud alert is a notification that appears in your credit file instructing lenders to take extra steps to verify your identity before processing credit card or loan applications. Its purpose is to prevent identity thieves and other criminals from securing loans or opening credit accounts in your name.
There are three types of fraud alerts:
- A temporary fraud alert, sometimes called an initial fraud alert, stays on your credit report for one year and then expires. Anyone can add one to their credit report anytime, for any reason. It can be renewed as many times as desired and, like all fraud alerts, can be cancelled anytime upon request.
- An active-duty fraud alert protects active-duty service members on assignment away from home. It lasts one year unless the service member removes it.
- An extended fraud victim alert stays on your credit reports for seven years unless you decide to remove it sooner. If you know you've been a victim of credit fraud or identity theft and have reported the crime to authorities, you can obtain one by submitting a copy of the identity theft report you filed with law enforcement.
How Do I Place a Fraud Alert?
Fraud alerts are available through all three national credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax). Placing a fraud alert at any one of the bureaus automatically triggers alerts at all three.
When you request a fraud alert, you must provide a copy of a state-issued ID card and a piece of mail, such as a utility or insurance bill, as proof of address. At the Experian Fraud Alert Center, you have the option to upload those items (and other supporting documents, if you're requesting an active-duty or long-term alert) as electronic documents or to submit them by mail.
To place a fraud alert at the Experian Fraud Alert Center, visit the webpage, select the type of alert you want, and follow the instructions on how to upload or mail in copies of your ID, proof of address and any other required documentation.
If you want to remove a fraud alert from your credit reports before they expire naturally, you must contact all three credit bureaus separately. (While the bureaus alert one another when an alert is activated, they do not do the same when one is removed.) Follow each bureau's instructions for removing a fraud alert, as procedures may differ by bureau.
Does Placing a Fraud Alert Hurt My Credit?
Placing a fraud alert on your credit report has no effect whatsoever on your credit standing. The requirement that creditors verify your identity may limit your ability to get instant approval on in-store or online credit card applications, or financing at in-store kiosks (at cellphone and computer retailers, for instance). A credit alert may require you to take a few extra steps, such as talking with a service rep in the store or by phone, but by law a fraud alert cannot prevent you from being approved for a loan or credit if you qualify for it.
If you suspect your personal information has been compromised or that criminals have stolen your identity or are trying to do so, placing a fraud alert on your credit report is an easy form of protection you can initiate yourself quickly and easily, and remove whenever you like.