What is a 'Credit Fraud Alert'

A credit fraud alert is a notice to a credit reporting bureau that a consumer’s identity may have been stolen and a request for new credit in that consumer’s name may not be legitimate.

BREAKING DOWN 'Credit Fraud Alert'

A credit fraud alert can be enacted by an individual to the credit reporting bureaus at no charge to the person submitting it. To complete this process, the person will be required to submit proof of identity so the credit reporting bureau can confirm the request is valid.

There are three types of credit fraud alerts. An initial alert is valid for 90 days and can be renewed for 90-day terms thereafter. An extended alert is valid for seven years and requires you to submit a police report to the credit bureaus notifying them that you have been a victim of identity theft and have reported the crime to the authorities. An active military alert is valid for one year and can help protect your credit while you’re deployed.

People commonly file credit fraud alert if they believe they are or could be the victim of identity theft, or if their information was compromised as part of a data breach.

How and Why to File Credit Fraud Alerts

If you believe someone may have stolen your personal or financial information and could use it to open fraudulent accounts in your name, contact one of the three major credit bureaus, which are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Request that they place a credit fraud alert on your account. You can usually complete the process online, but you can also do it by mail or phone. The bureau you contact is supposed to then notify the other two about the fraud alert, but you may want to contact all three yourself to cover your bases. When you place a fraud alert, you are also entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each bureau. Examine your credit report for signs of fraud, such as accounts you don’t recognize.

While the credit fraud alert is in effect, if anyone, including you, attempts to apply for credit in your name, the financial institution receiving the credit request is expected to take additional steps to verify the applicant’s identity and make sure the request is actually coming from the person named on the application. Thus, a fraud alert can create a bit of a hassle if you want to open a new account yourself, but it may also create enough of a hassle to prevent a thief from opening a fraudulent account in your name.

For even greater protection when you are certain your identity has been stolen, consider a credit freeze.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Credit Report

    A credit report is a detailed report of an individual's credit ...
  2. Credit Monitoring Service

    A credit monitoring service is a system that monitors a consumer’s ...
  3. Credit Bureau

    A credit bureau is an agency that collects and researches individual ...
  4. Deceased Alert

    A deceased alert is a notice on a credit report that tells credit ...
  5. Mixed File

    A mixed file is credit bureau record that contains more than ...
  6. Credit Reporting Agency

    A credit reporting agency is a business that maintains historical ...
Related Articles
  1. Managing Wealth

    Equifax Data Breach: How to Recover From Identity Theft

    Identity theft isn't going away, and fixing it can take time and money. But doing nothing isn't an option. Rather than become a victim, it is time to take action.
  2. Personal Finance

    What To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen

    Having your identity stolen is a nightmare. If you are ever faced with the situation, use these steps to alleviate the problem.
  3. Insights

    Identity Theft: Who To Call For Help

    If your identity is stolen, it's critical to act fast. Find out what to do if it happens and who to call.
  4. Tech

    Avoid Becoming An Identity Thief's Next Victim

    Use these 7 techniques to keep yourself under the radar and out of the way of identity thieves.
  5. Tech

    Staying Safe After the Equifax Data Breach

    The recent Equifax breach illustrates why you need to protect your identity. Here's how.
  6. Tech

    Equifax Breach: How to Protect Your Data

    Cybersecurity concerns are the new norm. Here's what to do if your data has been breached.
  7. Personal Finance

    Identity Theft Checklist

    If you're the unfortunate victim of identity theft, it can be very difficult. Here's a checklist to make it as easy as possible.
  8. Tech

    4 Ways to Check Credit Card Accounts for Trouble

    Credit cards do offer some protection against fraud, but here are 4 reasons to be vigilant and protect your credit score against scammers and mistakes.
  9. Personal Finance

    Protect Yourself From Identity Theft With These Steps

    It's hard to completely prevent thieves from committing fraud in your name, but there are ways to make it much more difficult for them.
RELATED FAQS
  1. How do credit bureaus make money?

    Take a closer look at how credit bureaus make money, and learn about the kind of services they provide to both lenders and ... Read Answer >>
  2. What's the difference between a credit rating agency and a credit bureau?

    Learn how to differentiate between credit rating agencies and credit bureaus, two industries that distribute valuable risk ... Read Answer >>
  3. Is it possible to get a free credit report from Equifax?

    Learn how you can receive a free credit report from Equifax. Read Answer >>
Trading Center