How to Place a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Record

Written by admin - 11 Comments

I recently learned that my personally identifying information (including my social security number) may have been compromised. While I’m hopeful that nothing bad will come of this, you can never be too careful when it comes to identity theft. Thus, I decided to place a fraud alert on my credit report (and on my wife’s, just for good measure).

Why place a fraud alert?

The benefits of placing a fraud alert are that potential creditors should contact you at a phone number of your choice prior to approving credit applications, and also that you get a free credit report from each of the three bureaus such that you can check for fraudulent activity. Sure, you can always get a free credit report with no strings attached, but that’s limited to once per year. This gives you a second chance of checking to be sure everything is alright.

The only real downside is that some credit issuers have a fully automated approval process, and will be unable to process your application if a fraud alert is in place. This is a slight hiccup, but well worth the inconvenience in my book if it prevents you from becoming a victim of fraud. Also keep in mind that you can remove the alert in the future if you decide you no longer need it.

How do I place the alert?

Actually placing the alert is surprisingly easy. You simply need to contact one of the three credit bureaus to request the alert, and they will automatically pass the information to the other two. I ended up going through Equifax, who allows you to place the alert over the phone or via the internet.

Since I was out and about when I did this, I ended up calling them, and the process couldn’t have been easier. I simply dialed 1-888-766-0008, punched in some information (including my SSN and a portion of our street address), and confirmed the request. Within a few days I received a letter from all three bureaus confirming that the fraud alert was in place.

It’s worth noting here that Experian subjects you to a pitch for their identity protection services when you call to request a fraud alert, so I would suggest avoiding them. I’m not sure about TransUnion, but since the process was so easy with Equifax, and since they autoatically notify the others, I would suggest going with them.

What next?

The initial fraud alert is good for 90 days, but the letter that you receive will include instructions for requesting an extended alert, which stays in place for seven years Similarly, the letter will include instructions for requesting your free credit report. Also note that requesting an extended alert entitles you to an additional free copy of your credit report (for a total of two) in the twelve months following your initial request.

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Published on March 4th, 2008 - 11 Comments
Filed under: Credit Reports, Identity Theft

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Comments (scroll down to add your own):

  1. I love all your blogs BTW, just found them today from a guest post at http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com.

    I recently had one of our credit cards discover several illicit charges and notified us. We probably average 6 of these calls/year from our 3 credit cards and it always seemed such a hassle. But now I’m thankful they are watching for this– it prevents me from filing claims with the CC companies and a potential fight. Almost $1000 in bad charges at 5 different online retailers!!

    You are right that it is very easy to use the phone system (I used Equifax as well) as long as you want to use the automatic system. However, trying to speak to someone at any of the three credit report companies is well next to impossible. I had a couple questions I wanted answered before I filed the fraud alert and never did end up getting someone after trying two of the companies over a period of 45 minutes.

    Comment by Eric — Mar 13th 2008 @ 2:40 pm
  2. I’m sorry but placing a fraud alert just to get a free copy of your credit report is a horrible idea.

    Things happen, and what if in the next 90 days you had to secure emergency credit, or get a background check for a job?

    Comment by mike — Jul 20th 2008 @ 6:37 pm
  3. mike: What if you need to place a legitimate fraud alert on your credit report and you need to secure emergency credit or get a background check for a job? The exact same thing. Creditors and employers can still access your report, so there’s not problem with employment. As for emergency credit, potential creditors have to use “reasonable policies and procedures” to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name. While some highly automated systems will reject your application outright, this generally results in a phone call from the creditor. You’re making this out to be a much bigger deal than it really is. Now, as for the ethics of doing this… That’s another issue entirely. While I understand that some people would take exception to doing this in the name of a free report, I’m of the opinion that this is *my* information, and I’m entitled to check it’s accuracy without paying a fee.

    Comment by admin — Jul 20th 2008 @ 7:15 pm
  4. From working on the other end of a Fraud alert (I work fraud prevention with a bank for a major retailer), there are a few things that I would want to chime in on:

    - You bank should (not all of them do) take extra precautions protecting your accounts when you have a fraud alert. Every month, each creditor founds out which of their customers (and former customers) has one of these alerts. Your bank then knows to take extra precautions against address changes on your account, limit increases, requests for new cards, and re-opening of closed account.

    - If your information may have been obtained, keep in mind that it could be years before the thief tries to use your account. Lots of people I see do a 90 day alert then give it up after they see that nothing has happened. It is important to renew that alert every 90 days, even if nothing has happened.

    - Companies like Lifelock or Debix that promise to protect your identity do exactly what we are talking about here, they place a 90 day alert on your credit. They renew it every 90 days as long as you keep your subscription going.

    - If you are worried about getting emergency credit, put your cell phone number on there. You can put 2 phone numbers on your credit alert. Make one of those your cell phone and they can verify you on the spot.

    - To extend it to 7 years, most states require that you have been the victim of fraud. You often need to provide a police report. However, you can place a security freeze on your report. This prevents anybody from pulling your credit for any reason, until you lift the freeze. In some states, this is free, in some states they charge a few dollars.

    If you want to apply for credit, a new bank account, or a new job where they need to see your credit, you need emergency credit, then you can call the bureaus and give them a code to lift that block.

    On the flip side of these, don’t expect to get instant credit from most retailers. If you apply at the register to get 20% off of your order, you will not be approved. You will not be approved until they call you.

    Comment by The Bear — Nov 1st 2008 @ 12:00 pm
  5. I’m dealing with a problem with the fraud alert. I was the victim of identity theft quite some time ago and so placed the fraud alert then. Somehow (I don’t remember how) the alert was made permanent.

    Now, I’ve left my old job (which was the number provided) and have moved into a new place. Imagine my surprise when the phone company told me that since they couldnt’ call the number given (which was no longer valid) I would have to have the fraud alert removed before I could get service. Imagine my further surprise when the credit bureaus say that I have to write in the request to have the alert removed (and send to a PO box, not even an overnight address), and imagine my dismay to discover that they want proof of address such as a utility bill. Since I just moved, it will be at least a month before I have the documentation they want.
    All-in-all this means that I’m going to end up waiting like 2 months in order to get phone service. Oh, and did I mention that I left my old job in order to be self-employed and will be working out of my home. Yep, that means that it isn’t just a new home phone number I’m waiting for, but my business phone number as well. Not good.
    I don’t recommend putting a fraud alert on your account friviously – it can come back to bite you in odd ways later on.

    Comment by Dismayed. — Nov 6th 2008 @ 12:00 pm
  6. I immigrated to the States in January this year. I have been sharing a house with a friend and now need my own place. I recently applied for an apartment and when my SS number/credit report was run, the lady said she found a fraud alert. I have no credit history and have not placed a fraud alert on my SS number so I am wondering who else can do that? I surfed all over the web and found no answer to my question. I applied for a free credit report with trans union and in their reply they said they were unable to locate a credit report…which is understandable since I have no credit history. How then do I have a fraud alert? Who would be able to answer this for me? If someone has tried to use my social security number, would it not show in a credit report?

    Comment by Dorothy — Nov 18th 2008 @ 11:00 am
  7. I have an extended fraud alert on my credit. I recently applied for a loan at a car dealership through GMAC Financial. The Finance manager said I was approved pending I call Equifax and give them a contact number to provide potential creditors. Because, I have a fraud alert with no contact information, so, they can’t legally contact me to verify it is really me. I called Equifax and they have all the correct information inlcuding a contact number. Now, the finanace manager is causing a big scene with GMAC. They still have not contacted me and he is giving GMAC my contact info, NOT Equifax to contact me. My question is this legal?? Can a creditor call me without my contact information given to them directly from 1 of the 3 credit companies? It seems like the Car Dealership is just trying to close a deal not look out for the actuall “consumers”.

    Comment by Ace — Nov 2nd 2009 @ 6:46 pm
  8. I clicked on your link “via the internet” for Equifax. It gives the choice of an initial 90 day fraud alert or an active duty alert. What is the difference between the two? I am on active duty so I have either option.

    Comment by Les — Mar 16th 2010 @ 1:25 am
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