A fraud alert is a notice that is placed on your credit report that alerts credit card companies and others who may extend you credit that you may have been a victim of fraud, including identity theft. Think of it as a “red flag” to potential lenders and creditors.
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Credit Card Fraud Alert
Here are 7 things you might not know about fraud alerts.
- A fraud alert encourages third parties to take extra steps to verify your identity before extending credit. What exactly does this mean? With an initial one-year fraud alert, companies are encouraged to take reasonable steps to confirm you are who you say you are, such as contacting you at a phone number you provide, before completing a request for credit.
- There is a seven-year fraud alert available to you. These fraud alerts are also known as extended fraud alerts. An extended fraud alert on your credit reports lasts for seven years. In order to place an extended fraud alert, a police report or a Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Report is required. To place an extended fraud alert, you can download this form to request by mail.
- For service members, there is an active duty military alert. An active duty alert is an option specifically available for U.S. service men and women. Like an initial one-year fraud alert, an active duty alert encourages companies to take extra steps to verify your identity, such as contacting you by phone, before opening new accounts in your name or modifying existing ones.
- You can update or remove a fraud alert by phone or mail. Removing or updating contact information on a fraud alert—one-year, seven-year, or active duty military alert—can be done by phone or mail at any of the three nationwide credit bureaus.
- You only need to contact one of the nationwide credit bureaus in order to have an initial one-year fraud alert, active duty alert or extended fraud alert placed on all three of your credit reports. Fraud alerts are designed so that you only have to contact one of the three nationwide credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian or TransUnion — online, by phone, or by mail
- Someone else is able to manage your fraud alert on your behalf. A “personal representative” can be designated to manage a fraud alert on your behalf with a Power of Attorney or court appointed document. The personal representative can add fraud alerts, delete them or update contact information.
- There are many additional resources that offer great information about fraud alerts and fraud-related topics. In addition to the three major credit bureaus, you may find more information about fraud alerts on the Equifax website, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and/or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) websites.
If your credit card has been lost or stolen, you need to file a credit card fraud alert. Start by calling your credit card company and getting your card cancelled.
They will arrange to send you a new card and also send you the correct forms for filing a fraud alert.
- Fill the forms out promptly and get them sent in in a timely manner. The longer you wait the worse the situation can get. Like I said, it doesn’t matter if the card was lost or stolen, the result can be the same. If you have only lost your card and someone finds it, they can use it fraudulently and get you in all kinds of trouble and essentially make your life a living hell until you get everything straightened out. If it was stolen, you will have the same problem. Report the loss or theft as soon as you can and get the credit card fraud alert filed. You will be glad you did.
- When calling the credit bureaus remember you will only need to inform one of them, the one you report to will contact the other two for you. Filing a fraud alert with the credit bureaus allows them to advise your creditor that you may be a victim of identity theft. If someone then tries to get more credit the credit bureau should contact you to verify that it is you who is doing the asking and not the identity thief.
- The initial fraud alert will stay on file for 90 days from the time you file. The 90 day fraud alert is used if you suspect that you may be the victim of identity theft or could become one. So, use this fraud alert if your credit card gets lost or there is a possibility that it was stolen or you suspect some of your mail has been stolen but you really have no proof that any theft has really occurred. 90 days is long enough to ferret out any would be identity thief. Always file a police report, just in case.
- The other type of fraud alert is called an Extended Fraud Alert and last for seven years. You file an extended fraud alert in the same manner as the 90 day variety with the difference being the credit bureaus require that you also file an identity theft report. This is where the police report comes in handy as you will need a copy of the police report to file along with the form from the credit bureau.
I had a scare at the beginning of this year. All of a sudden I had stopped receiving my check stubs in the mail and then did not receive my W-2’s for taxes.
When I went in to the main office of my job and asked about it they gave me the login information to get my check stubs online.
That is when I noticed that the address on my check stubs was incorrect and they were going to some place in a whole other state.
I filed a police report just in case something ever came of it. Nothing did, though, to my relief.
This just goes to show that you cannot be too careful and although this was not a credit card, if you lose you credit card or it gets stolen, it is very important to file a credit card fraud alert.