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An extended fraud alert is a notification that appears on your credit reports for seven years asking lenders to verify your identity before processing credit or loan applications made in your name. Also known as a fraud-victim statement, this notice is specifically designed for victims of credit fraud or identity theft. To add an extended alert, you will need to submit a copy of a police report or identity theft report along with your request.
How Does an Extended Fraud Alert Work?
An extended fraud alert is the longest-lasting of three similar fraud alerts or security alerts you have the right to add to your credit report. All three—the temporary fraud alert, the military or active-duty fraud alert, and the extended fraud alert—request lenders to confirm your identity before processing a credit application made using your personal information. All aim to prevent criminals from using your personal credentials to borrow money or set up credit card accounts in your name, and all are free to add.
What sets the three types of fraud alerts apart is their duration and who is eligible to receive one: Only victims who have reported credit fraud can obtain an extended fraud alert, which lasts seven years. Active-duty fraud alerts last one year and are available to military service members on remote-duty assignment. Temporary fraud alerts (sometimes called initial fraud alerts) are available to anyone, anytime, and also last one year.
Placing a fraud alert at any one of the three national credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion or Equifax) will automatically attach the alerts to your credit reports at the other bureaus. All fraud alerts can be removed or suspended temporarily upon request, but doing so requires notifying each bureau separately. Fraud alerts can be renewed when they expire, but renewing extended fraud alerts and military fraud alerts require resubmission of eligibility documents.
How to Place an Extended Fraud Alert
You can easily request an extended fraud alert (or any other type of fraud alert) by using the Experian Fraud Alert Center. When requesting an extended alert, you'll need to submit a copy of the identity theft report you filed with law enforcement. Instructions at the Fraud Center webpage cover options for uploading supporting documents electronically as digital files and for submitting hard copies via postal mail.
Does an Extended Fraud Alert Affect Your Credit?
The presence or absence of an extended fraud alert on your credit report has no effect at all on your credit scores or credit standing. But because fraud alerts ask creditors to verify your identity, they can sometimes hinder your ability to be instantly approved for a new credit account at, say, a retail store counter.
A fraud alert does not affect the likelihood that you'll qualify for a loan or credit, but it can complicate the automated approval process these instant-approval credit or financing offers rely on. If you have a credit alert in place and wish to get approval for such offers, you might need to contact the company to find out how you can apply since you may not be able to get instant credit.
While it may not be possible for lenders to process instant credit applications with a security alert on your report, having an alert won't prevent lenders from approving other types of credit once they are able to verify your identity. And the extra security a fraud alert provides can prevent an identity thief from succeeding in opening new credit accounts in your name. When a criminal secures a loan or credit card account in your name, they'll typically use the funds and then vanish without making any payments. This can lead to negative entries on your credit report and, as a result, lower credit scores. You can get fraudulent entries removed from your credit history by filing disputes with the national credit bureaus.
What Is the Difference Between a Fraud Alert and a Credit Freeze?
Those who have had their personal data stolen and used by fraudsters sometimes consider a credit freeze.
A credit freeze, or security freeze, is another form of fraud protection sometimes used by consumers who have been repeated victims of identity theft. While a fraud alert asks creditors who view your credit report to verify your identity before approving credit, a security freeze prohibits potential new creditors from accessing your credit report at all. If you need to apply for credit yourself, you'll need to lift or thaw the freeze before you apply. In some cases, you may be able to obtain a single-use PIN to provide to your lender so that they can access your report on a one-time basis.
Credit freezes must be set up separately at each of the national credit bureaus. When you request a freeze, you may be supplied with or asked to create a PIN or password to use when thawing your report. To lift a credit freeze, each bureau must be notified separately. It costs nothing to activate or lift a credit freeze, and each freeze lasts indefinitely—it has no expiration date.
Lenders may work with any combination of the national credit bureaus when checking your credit history and credit scores, so individuals with credit freezes in place typically must thaw their credit at all three bureaus any time they apply for credit. For this reason, a fraud alert may be more preferable to freezing your reports.
An Ounce of Prevention
If you've been a victim of data theft or identity fraud, it's prudent to take steps to secure your credit file. An extended fraud alert is easy to set up, and it can go a long way toward preventing criminals from securing credit in your name. If you'd like to keep a closer eye on your credit report, Experian credit monitoring can help you. This free service provides you with free credit reports and scores as well as alerts that can draw your attention to changes in your credit.