Credit Infocenter

Placing a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Reports

Written by: Kristy Welsh

Last Updated: June 30, 2017

If you believe you have been a victim identity theft or fraud, you need to protect your credit. One option is placing a fraud alert on your credit reports through the three national credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You will still be able to apply for new credit, but the alert will make it harder for thieves to open new accounts in your name. Do nothing and you could end up with fraudulent debts that don’t belong to you and damaged credit in need of repair.

How Fraud Alerts Work

When you place a fraud alert on your credit reports, it’s a red flag to creditors that an identity thief may try and open a credit account in your name. So, if a creditor receives an application from you, they are supposed to contact you for verification — to be certain it is, indeed, you — before extending new credit. According to Equifax, this includes new credit accounts, as well as new cards or increased credit limits on existing accounts.

There are three types of fraud alerts, all of which are free to place and remove.

Initial Fraud Alert

An Initial Fraud Alert only stays on your credit reports for 90 days, but you can renew it indefinitely.

1) Request the alert through one of the three national credit bureaus (they will notify the other two)

2) Be prepared to provide the following information:

  • Your name
  • Social security number
  • Date of birth
  • Address
  • Phone number

3) Renew every 90 days, as needed

Extended Fraud Alert

Place Fraud Alert Credit Report

An Extended Fraud Alert stays on your credit reports for 7 years. For this reason, the process for placing an Extended Fraud Alert on your credit reports is much more involved than that of an Initial Fraud Alert.

1) File an Identity Theft Report

2) Request the alert through one of the three national credit bureaus (they will notify the other two)

3) Be prepared to provide:

  • The same personal information listed above for the Initial Fraud Alert
  • Proof of identification and current address
  • Copy of your Identity Theft Report

In addition to the alert placed on your credit reports, your name will also be removed from prescreened credit and insurance offers for 5 years. Also, within 12 months of placing an Extended Fraud Alert on your credit reports, you are entitled to two free credit reports from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

Active Duty Alert

An Active Duty Alert stays on your credit reports for 12 months. If you are an active-duty servicemember, this type of alert can help protect you from fraud during times of deployment.

1) Request the alert through one of the three national credit bureaus (they will notify the other two)

2) Be prepared to provide:

  • The same personal information listed above for the Initial Fraud Alert
  • Proof of identification

In addition to the alert placed on your credit reports, your name will also be removed from prescreened credit card offers for 2 years.

Warning About Fraud Alerts

There is the possibility that some creditors will not follow through on the fraud alert and will fail to contact you for verification.

"While lenders and service providers are supposed to seek and obtain your approval before granting credit in your name if you have a fraud alert on your file," says security expert Brian Krebs, "they’re not legally required to do this."

And Swiped author Adam Levin says: “A lot of lenders, regardless of what they’re supposed to do, don’t take the time to check…. A credit freeze isn’t a silver bullet, but it’s certainly better than a fraud alert.”

Another Option: Credit Freeze

Unlike a fraud alert, a credit freeze:

  • Prevents creditors from accessing your credit at all, an effective tool for preventing the opening of fraudulent accounts, as most creditors will not extend new credit without checking credit first
  • Requires you to make the request through each of the credit bureaus separately
  • May require a fee under certain circumstances
  • Doesn’t allow you to have potential creditors check your credit; to do so, you will need to lift the freeze first

Learn more about credit freezes.

Ready to Request a Fraud Alert?

Use the online request forms at Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion