Whether you’ve been the victim of credit fraud, or you’re just afraid you might be, setting up a credit fraud alert can be a good way to put your mind at ease.
But first things first — let’s take a look at what credit fraud alerts are, how they might help, and what to be aware of once you have one in place.
What are Credit Fraud Alerts?
A credit fraud alert encourages creditors and lenders to take an extra step in verifying your identity — by calling you, for instance — before extending credit in your name. So if someone manages to get their hands on your Social Security number (or other identifying information), and a credit fraud alert is in place and properly utilized, the individual should encounter an additional hurdle in opening an account in your name.
How to Set Up a Credit Fraud Alert
Unlike other forms of credit protection (which you can read about here and here), you only need to contact one of the three credit reporting agencies (CRAs) — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — to set up a fraud alert. That’s because once you notify one, that CRA is required to notify the other two CRAs on your behalf.
Here is how you can set up a credit fraud alert with each CRA.
Experian Credit Fraud Alert
- Online: You can fill out a short online form to set up fraud alerts through Experian. Make sure you have either your Social Security number or the 10-digit number at the top of your Experian credit report. You may also need to upload a copy of a state issued ID, as well as a piece of mail that verifies your name and address. (You can access each of your three credit reports — from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — weekly for free until April 2021. Learn more.)
- Phone: Put a credit fraud alert in place at any time, day or night, by calling Experian’s automated line at 1-888-397-3742. You will need to provide information verifying your identity — like your Social Security number and mailing address.
- Mail: You can also complete a fraud alert request by mail. Download and print this form and collect copies of the requested documents: driver’s license/state issued ID, and a utility bill or insurance statement (or another bill that includes both your name and address). (Note: Experian says they are “unable to accept credit card statements, voided checks, lease agreements, magazine subscriptions or postal service forwarding orders as proof.”)
Mail everything to:
PO Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
Equifax Credit Fraud Alert
- Online: To set up a fraud alert online through Equifax, you’ll need to register for an account here.
- Phone: Set up a fraud alert by calling (800) 525-6285.
- Mail: To mail in your credit fraud alert request, download and fill out this form. You will need to include a copy of one of the following: a W2 or 1099 form, Social Security card, or pay stub with your Social Security number. You will also need to include a copy of one of the following: driver’s license or state ID, rental lease agreement or house deed, a pay stub with your address, or a utility bill (with your name and address).
Mail everything to:
Equifax Information Services
P.O. Box 105069
Atlanta, GA 30348-5069
TransUnion Credit Fraud Alert
- Online: To set up a fraud alert through TransUnion, you’ll need to register for an account here.
- Phone: Set up a fraud alert through TransUnion by calling 800-680-7289.
- Mail: To mail in your credit fraud alert request, send a letter that includes your name, address, and Social Security number.
Mail everything to:
TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
A Few Important Facts About Fraud Alerts
There are different types.
- Initial fraud alert
According to VantageScore, this is the easiest fraud alert to add to your credit report and generally only requires a state-issued ID, a piece of mail confirming both your name and address, and potentially a document confirming your Social Security number (as discussed above). This precaution can generally be used by anyone –– whether you’ve been the victim of credit fraud, or you’re just concerned you might be. This type of fraud alert is supposed to last for up to one year, but can be lifted earlier or renewed at the end of that period.
- Extended fraud alert
An extended fraud alert is supposed to last for up to seven years, unless you decide to remove it sooner. If you’ve been a victim of credit fraud or identity theft and have reported the crime to authorities, you can submit a copy of your identity theft report from a law enforcement agency to obtain one. As with the initial fraud alert, you only need to place an extended fraud alert with one CRA and they will inform the other two.
- Active duty fraud alert
An active duty fraud alert is intended for active duty service members interested in protecting their credit while away on deployment. Just like the initial fraud alert, it is supposed to last for one year, but it should also stop pre-screened credit card and insurance offers for up to two years. You can appoint a personal representative with power of attorney to manage and be your point of contact for your fraud alert while away.
Whether you need an initial, extended, or active duty fraud alert, it’s free to both set and remove it.
Someone else can manage a fraud alert for you.
As mentioned above, if you are unable to manage a credit fraud alert on your own, you can appoint a representative with power of attorney to manage one for you. They are able to add a fraud alert, remove a fraud alert, or update contact information on your behalf.
They shouldn’t impact your credit score.
According to Experian, while a fraud alert may impact how quickly you can be approved for new credit, it shouldn’t negatively impact your credit score or overall credit worthiness.
You can place a fraud alert and freeze your credit at the same time.
According to TransUnion, it’s possible to place both a credit freeze and credit fraud alert on your credit report at the same time. Although, it’s important to note, you may need to ask the other two CRAs to place a credit freeze as well (whereas requesting a fraud alert with one CRA will automatically result in the other two CRAs adding a fraud alert). Go here to learn more.
Don’t Forget: It’s Still Important to Monitor Your Credit
Even with a credit fraud alert in place, it’s important to consistently monitor your credit, look for inaccuracies, and dispute any errors you may find.
You can also monitor your TransUnion credit report and dispute any errors you find for FREE with Upturn. Learn more and sign up here.