What Is a Credit Fraud Alert?

A credit fraud alert is a notice sent 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. A credit fraud alert can protect you and your credit from someone opening fraudulent credit accounts under your name. You should let one of the major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) know if your card has been stolen, and they can put a credit fraud alert out.

Key Takeaways

  • A credit fraud alert is sent to credit bureaus to let them know that a consumer’s identity may have been stolen.
  • To complete a credit fraud alert, the stolen card owner is required to submit proof of identity to confirm the request is valid.
  • While the credit fraud alert is in effect, the lender receiving any credit requests is expected to take additional steps to verify that the request is authentic.
  • Initial, extended, and active military are the three types of credit fraud alerts.

Understanding 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.

Types of Credit Fraud Alerts

There are three types of credit fraud alerts—initial, extended, and active military.

Initial Alert

An initial alert is valid for 90 days and can be renewed for 90-day terms thereafter.

Extended Alert

An extended alert is valid for seven years. It 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.

Active Military Alert

An active military alert is valid for one year and can help protect your credit while you’re deployed. People commonly file credit fraud alerts if they believe they are victims of identity theft or if their information was compromised as part of a data breach.

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

Special Considerations

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: 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 set up a credit fraud alert, you are entitled to free credit reports from each major credit 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. Thus, a fraud alert can create a bit of a hassle if you want to open a new account yourself, but it may also make enough of a hassle to prevent a thief from opening a fraudulent account in your name.