If you’re currently being scammed by identity theft (or have good reason to think you will be) these are the fraud alert types that you can self-initiate with the credit bureaus:
1st Type: Initial 90 day fraud alert
You can set one of these up whenever you want. The requirements/qualifications to do so are very lax: “Anyone that suspects they are a victim of identity theft.”
So if that’s the case, you can add one of these to your credit reports even if you haven’t become a victim yet.
Once in place, any creditor that pulls your report will see the alert. So if you (or someone else) attempts to open a new account, increase a line of credit, or obtain a secondary card on an existing credit card during that 90 day window… expect the creditor to take extra steps to verify identity before the request or application is processed.
Here’s how to file a fraud alert with the credit bureaus…
- Online: https://www.alerts.equifax.com/AutoFraud_Online/jsp/fraudAlert.jsp
- Phone: 1-800-525-6285
- Mail: Equifax Information Services LLC, P.O. Box 105069, Atlanta, GA 30348-5069
- Online: https://www.experian.com/fraud/center.html
- Phone: 1-888-EXPERIAN (1-888-397-3742)
- Mail: Experian’s website does not list a specific address for fraud alerts
- Online: http://www.transunion.com/personal-credit/credit-disputes/fraud-alerts.page
- Phone: 1-800-680-7289
- Mail: TransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834
Obviously, it probably makes the most sense to file a credit bureau fraud alert online or by phone, since it will take time to mail and process a written request.
It’s only necessary to file with one of the three bureaus, as they’ll notify the other two (typically within 48 hours). But if you insist on filing separate fraud alerts with all 3 credit reporting agencies, go ahead because it certainly won’t hurt to do so.
It’s important to point out that with a 90 day alert, there is no legal requirement for a creditor to do anything differently. In fact, they could ignore it altogether. However any creditor with half a brain will take them seriously and employ extra steps to verify your identity, because issuing credit to imposters obviously won’t make them any money.
2nd Type: Extended Fraud Alerts (7 years)
Often times the 90 day fraud alert will work, because if a criminal is trying to apply for credit cards using your Social Security, after they fail (hopefully) they will move on and never attempt to use your info again. That’s what happened to me when I was a victim and I’ll tell you more about that in a minute.
An extended fraud alert is similar to the 90 day version, except it lasts for 7 years. Additionally, it will be mandatory for creditors to contact you at the phone numbers provided (or meet with you in-person) before they can approve you for credit requests.
However unlike the 90 day version, in order to file for an extended alert you will need to provide an identity theft report to prove you have been victimized. Please note that a bare-bones police report might not qualify. Here is how the FTC website describes an identity theft report:
For further details, click on the above link.
Once you have an extended alert, you’re entitled to the following:
- 2 free credit reports within 12 months from each of the 3 credit bureaus; Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion
- 5 year removal from marketing lists for pre-screened credit offers. You can ask them to add you back onto those lists at any time, but by default the removal will last for 5 years.
3rd Type: Active Duty Alert (12 months)
As the name implies, if you are on active duty you can request one of these alerts (even if you’re not a victim). The point of these is so no funny business happens with your credit while you are away. Of course, that means this option is only available to active military personnel.
This type of alert will last for 12 months. It will also remove you from pre-screened offers but for a longer period of time; 2 years. To file these, check out the links above to the 3 credit agencies.
In addition to filing alerts yourself, your creditor can initiate a fraud alert:
Creditor Initiated Fraud Alert
A bank, credit card company, or other lender can add a fraud alert to your report if there is merit to do so. It’s similar to the initial 90-day alert except it’s added by a creditor.
For example, here is a post from a forum member who found a fraudulent credit inquiry on his report. He called up Capital One to notify them about it, who in turn, placed a creditor-initiated alert on his credit report.
My personal experience using them
Several years ago I was the victim of identity theft – someone attempted to apply for credit cards using my info. I knew EXACTLY where the thief was getting my info, too.
Just a few days before, I applied for a job and made the foolish mistake of providing them my Social Security number. Why? Well I knew it was a dumb move, but I was desperate for a job and their application insisted on it.
Normally you should put “available upon request” but in this circumstance, the shady hole-in-the-wall company pressured me to provide it anyway, as they eluded I would not be given the job if I didn’t (even though I was at this point just one of many people applying).
Lo and behold, a few days later Chase contacts me because they received a credit card application online. It contained specific pieces of information that were not provided to ANYONE yet since they just changed… which meant the only source that would have that info was the job application.
Chase advised me to call in and file a 90 day credit bureau fraud alert. I filed one with Experian or Equifax (don’t remember which) and within a couple days, all 3 bureaus had the alert on file. Some of my current credit cards even contacted me over the next week or two, to make sure my accounts were normal.
I was lucky in that a 90 day was all it took to get the scammers to leave me alone. But if the criminal is persistent, they might hold onto your personal info long term, so be sure and monitor your reports regularly.