Since identity theft is on the rise, it is very important for every consumer to be prepared and armed with the proper information to know what to do if one is ever, g-d forbid, a victim to identity theft. In the past, we posted about credit freezes as one solution. This week’s post is about fraud alerts, as another idea. At the end of the post, I will let you know my opinion about which action I think is the best way to go.
What Is a Fraud Alert?
When someone falls victim to identity theft or fraud, (or if someone thinks he may have fallen victim to identity theft or fraud) he can place a fraud alert on his credit reports. After you place a fraud alert, then lenders will receive a message when they pull your credit which will state something like the following. ID SECURITY ALERT: 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.
How Do I Place a Fraud Alert?
You can place a fraud alert by contacting any of the three credit bureaus online or by phone.
You only need to contact one of the three credit bureaus. The credit bureau you contact will send a message to the other two credit bureaus to place the fraud alert as well.
How Much Does a Fraud Alert Cost?
Fraud alerts are always free.
How Long Does a Fraud Alert Last for?
There are three types of fraud alerts you can place:
- Initial Alert
Since September 2018, an initial alert will expire after 12 months (not 90 days). You will also receive an extra free copy of your credit report.
- Extended Fraud Alert
An extended fraud alert will last up to seven years. (You may need to file a complaint with the FDC in order to place an extended fraud alert. You may also need to file a police report). With an extended fraud alert, you will receive two extra free copies of your credit report for the first 12 months after placing the alert.
- Active Duty Military Alert
This alert is for US servicemen and women and expires after 12 months. Once it expires, you can renew it as necessary.
How Do I Remove a Fraud Alert?
If you feel that the fraud alert is no longer needed, or if you placed it by mistake, you can have it removed by mailing a request of removal to all three credit bureaus. Make sure to include identifying documents. Follow the steps found on the Credit bureaus website.
Even though a fraud alert sounds easier to place, (you only need to contact one credit bureau) I still wouldn’t recommend it verses a credit freeze. The reason is that it’s much harder to remove than a credit freeze. There are many reports on the internet of people getting declined on credit cards just because they had a fraud alert. Credit card issuers like to have their systems run smoothly and they don’t want to deal with extra headaches. With a fraud alert you’re locking out thieves, but at the same time you’re also locking yourself out. On the other hand, with a credit freeze, you have more control of when you want it locked and when you want it open.
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