How to Set a Fraud Alert on Your Credit File
By Sakai Blue
, last updated December 22, 2011
A fraud alert is a notation placed in your file with the credit reporting agencies that states that suspicious activity has been discovered in your credit file, and alerts creditors that they need to contact you and verify your identity before extending credit to anyone claiming to be you. Credit alerts are easy to file and should be activated as soon as you confirm suspicious activity.
The first thing you’ll need to do is immediately contact the fraud department of each of the credit bureaus. When you reach the automated system, follow the prompts until you get to the section that asks if you want to set up a fraud alert, and follow the instructions. Since this is urgent, you’ll want the bureaus to contact you as easily and swiftly as possible, so use your cell phone. You can also file for a fraud alert online. To file with Equifax, go to alerts.equifax.com, and for Experian, use experian.com/fraud. Transunion doesn’t have an online fraud alert option.
When your alert has been activated, you’ll receive a confirmation in the mail from the bureau in about a week’s time. If you haven’t received a letter, place the alert again. After the alert has been registered, you won’t receive any pre-approved insurance or credit card offers for a period of two years.
You should be aware that the fraud alert only lasts for 90 days. You’ll need to reactivate the alert after that three-month period is over. Another option is that you could apply for something called a 7-year victim statement, which will keep the alert in place for a period of 7 years. For this to be approved, you’ll have to prove that you’ve already been a victim of fraud.
If you’re setting up a fraud alert for one of your minor children, be aware credit bureaus don’t keep credit files on minor children, so if you believe your child’s information has been used illegally, alert the credit agencies and let the police know as well. Give the credit bureau your child’s full name and date of birth, a copy of their birth certificate and social security card, a copy of your government issued-ID with your current address, and a current utility bill wit our dress. Mail all of this info via certified mail to the credit bureaus’ fraud departments.
Now for the downside of activating a fraud alert. You won’t be able to sign up for in-store credit offers, or get instant approval for online credit applications. You’ll have to go through a verification process so that the bureaus don’t think it’s the perpetrator opening up another card. This may seem like a pain, but it’s actually a tiny price to pay for peace of mind. If you’re in the process of a major transaction, like buying a home or an expensive car, you’ll have to let the broker or vendor know what’s on your file so that no red flags are raised.
If you want to remove a fraud alert, put it in writing, and write your name, social security number, current and old addresses, date of birth and send it all to the credit bureaus via certified mail.
Even though you’ve placed the fraud alert, you need to pay close attention to your files and look out for suspicious activity. Some creditors may not even pay attention to the alert, usually because they weren’t paying attention. Don’t get complacent about your credit...you’re protecting your very name.