Fraud Alert

What is a Fraud Alert?

A fraud alert is a key provision of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA). It allows consumers to place fraud alerts on their credit records if they believe they are victims of identity theft.

How Fraud Alerts Work

A fraud alert requires creditors who check your credit report to verify your identity before opening a new account, issuing an additional card, or increasing the credit limit on an existing account based on a consumer’s request.

Why Place a Fraud Alert?

A fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name.

When you have a fraud alert on your report:

  • a business must verify your identity before it issues any type of credit
  • the alerts stay on your report for one year
  • you can get a new one after one year
  • it allows you to order one free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus

How to Place a Fraud Alert

Follow these steps to place a fraud alert on your credit reports.

Step 1: Contact the credit bureaus

Placing a fraud alert is free, but you must contact a credit bureau.

    • Ask the credit bureau to place a fraud alert on your credit report.
    • The credit bureau you contact will then contact the other two credit bureaus.
    • Be sure the credit bureaus have your current contact information so they can reach out to you if necessary.

Step 2: Understand your rights

The credit bureau will explain that you can get a free credit report and other rights you have.

Step 3: Mark your calendar and set a reminder

The fraud alert stays on your report for one year. After one year, you can request another new fraud alert.

Place a Fraud Alert with a Credit Bureau

Contact one of the nationwide credit reporting bureaus and place a fraud alert in your credit report:

When you place a fraud alert on one credit report with a credit bureau, it must notify the others.

2 Types of Fraud Alerts

There are two main types of fraud alerts: initial fraud alerts and extended alerts.

Initial fraud alerts

If you believe you might become a victim, you can place an initial fraud alert on your credit report. Credit reporting companies will keep that alert on your file for 90 days.

An initial fraud alert requires that the creditor take reasonable steps to form a reasonable belief that they know the identity of the person making a new credit request in your name. If you provide a telephone number, the lender must call you to verify whether you are the person making the credit request.

  • When you place an initial fraud alert in your file, you can order one free copy of your credit report from each nationwide credit reporting company.
  • When you place an extended fraud alert in your file, you’re entitled to order two free copies of your credit report from each nationwide credit reporting company over 12 months.

These free reports do not count as your free annual report from each agency.

Once you get your credit reports, review them carefully. Look for:

  • Accounts you did not open.
  • Information about the status of the accounts and whether the account balances appear correct.
  • Outstanding balances on your reports that you cannot explain.
  • Incorrect personal information, such as your Social Security number, address, name or initials, and employers.

If you find fraudulent or inaccurate information, contact the credit bureau and file a dispute to remove it.

Extended alerts

After identity theft, you can place an extended alert on your credit report. You must file either a police report or an “identity theft report” with a government agency such as the Federal Trade Commission. An extended alert is good for seven years.

With an extended alert, a creditor must contact you in person or through the telephone number or other contact method you designate to verify whether you are the person making the credit request.