Published: June 23, 2024
|
6 min read

How to place a fraud alert on your credit report + how to remove one

DB

Danielle Bodnar

Cybersecurity writer

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If you notice suspicious activity on your credit card, you may want to place a fraud alert on your credit

Whether you’re a victim of identity theft or just taking precautions, filing a fraud alert on your credit report can help safeguard your credit and finances. Learn how to place a fraud alert, how to remove one, and how LifeLock Advantage can help you monitor your credit, block unauthorized account openings, and protect against fraud.

To place a fraud alert, you need to contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. These agencies collect information about how you use credit, including debt you may have and whether you’ve filed for bankruptcy.

You can find contact information for the three major credit reporting agencies in the table below. To place a fraud alert, you only need to contact one of the agencies, because whoever you reach out to must alert the other two. The most efficient way to contact them is online or by phone.

Here’s the contact information for the three major credit bureaus:

Online By phone By mail
Experian Fraud Center 888-397-3742 Experian PO, Box 9554 Allen, TX 75013
Equifax Alerts 800-525-6285 Equifax Information Services LLC, PO Box 105069, Atlanta, GA 30348-5069
TransUnion Fraud Alert 800-680-7289 TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Department, PO Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016-2000

When should I use a fraud alert?

You should place a credit report fraud alert when you suspect your financial or personal information has been compromised or if you think your identity has been stolen.

Here are some good reasons for putting a fraud alert on your credit report:

  • Lost or stolen credit cards or SSN: If you’re worried someone has your credit cards, Social Security number, or other personally identifiable information that could be used for financial fraud or identity theft, you should consider filing a fraud alert.
  • Unauthorized credit accounts/applications on your credit report: If you request a credit report and find credit accounts have been opened or applications for credit made that you didn’t authorize, you should file a fraud alert.
  • You’re on active military duty: If you’re a service member and about to be deployed, you can sign up for free electronic credit monitoring with each of the three bureaus while you’re deployed. That will make it harder for anyone to open an unauthorized account in your name while you’re serving.
A graphic explaining when you should place a fraud alert with the credit bureaus.

Types of fraud alerts + how to place them

There are three different types of fraud alerts: initial fraud alert, extended fraud alert, and active-duty fraud alert. These don’t completely restrict access to your credit, but they require lenders to take extra steps to verify your identity if they receive a credit application in your name.

Initial fraud alert

An initial fraud alert is intended for anyone who believes they’ve been the victim of fraud or might be.

  • How to place one: Contact any one of the three major credit bureaus online, by phone, or by mail.
  • Who can place it: Anyone who suspects fraud—it can be you or someone who has Power of Attorney to manage your accounts.
  • What to provide: Proof of identity (e.g., a Social Security card) and proof of address (e.g., a utility bill).
  • How long it lasts: One year, but it can be renewed if necessary.
  • What it costs: Nothing. Initial fraud alerts are free.

Extended fraud alert

An extended fraud alert is for people who have experienced identity theft and filed a police report or completed an FTC identity theft report.

  • How to place one: After reporting your stolen identity, contact any one of the three major credit bureaus online, by phone, or by mail.
  • Who can place it: Only people who have had their identity stolen and reported it to the FTC or the police can submit an extended fraud alert. You can do it for someone else only if you have Power of Attorney.
  • What to provide: The Police and FTC Identity Theft report, proof of identity (e.g., a Social Security card), and proof of address (e.g., a utility bill).
  • How long it lasts: Seven years.
  • What it costs: Nothing. Extended fraud alerts are free.

Active-duty fraud alert

An active-duty fraud alert does not require a suspicion of identity theft. It’s meant to protect active members of the military from fraud by flagging their information for identity verification and removing their names from the credit bureaus’ marketing lists for two years at a time.

  • How to place one: Contact any one of the three major credit bureaus online, by phone, or by mail.
  • Who can place it: Eligible military personnel or someone with Power of Attorney if the person on active duty is already deployed.
  • What to provide: Proof of identity (e.g., a Social Security card) and proof of address (e.g., a utility bill).
  • How long it lasts: One year, but active-duty fraud alerts are always renewable for the remainder of the current deployment.
  • What it costs: Free. Active-duty fraud alerts are free for deployed military personnel.

How to remove a fraud alert

Once the danger has passed and you’ve taken steps to recover from identity theft and rebuild your credit, you can simply allow the credit fraud alert to expire. You can also choose to remove it before the expiration date.

Fraud alerts don’t impact your credit score, but they do make the process of opening new credit lines a little longer, as organizations must take extra steps to verify your identity.

To remove a fraud alert before its expiration date, you need to contact each of the credit bureaus individually.

Protect your credit

Help protect against identity fraud with LifeLock Advantage, which goes way beyond credit monitoring. With LifeLock Advantage, you’ll get alerts if any of your personal information is detected in potentially fraudulent credit applications and services. And the built-in Identity Lock feature will help you block unauthorized account openings before they cause trouble. Plus, you'll get 24/7 live member support for greater peace of mind. Become a LifeLock member today to help keep your financial information safe and protect your digital life.

FAQs about how to place a fraud alert

Have more questions about how to place a fraud alert? We cover the most frequently asked questions about fraud alerts below.

Are fraud alerts free?

Yes, fraud alerts are free to place. Fraud alerts also grant you free credit reports, one per bureau per year on a basic alert, and two per bureau per year with an extended fraud alert.

How quickly do fraud alerts take effect?

A fraud alert placed online or by phone will show up on your credit report the same day that you place it. If you send a fraud alert request by mail, there’s no way of guaranteeing when the credit bureau will receive it, and it could even go missing. For the quickest action, we recommend calling the bureau directly or contacting them online.

What’s the difference between a credit freeze and a fraud alert?

The difference between a credit freeze and credit lock (another name for a fraud alert) is that a credit freeze restricts access to your credit report so that most lenders won’t even consider offering new credit in your name. A credit lock (or fraud alert) adds extra steps to the identity verification process when you open a new line of credit.

There are also some differences in the process of placing the alert: to place a fraud alert you only need to contact one credit bureau, but to freeze your credit you need to contact all three individually.

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