ID Theft Alert: Placing a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Report

You may be able to prevent others from using personal information about you by placing a fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert is a notice that the credit bureaus add to your credit report advising creditors to contact you by telephone before they extend credit in your name or change an existing account. It does not affect ordinary charges to an existing credit card account. If a creditor who is asked to extend credit in your name (open a new credit card account, provide new cellular service, make an installment sale, take or refinance a home mortgage, or make an auto loan) cannot reach you at the telephone number you designate, the application for credit should be denied.

    • Are There Disadvantages?
      You may be asked to provide proof of your identity when you apply for instant credit, as with interest-free loans some retailers offer for new accounts. If you cannot be reached at the telephone number on record with the credit bureaus, the retailer may reject your application, or approval might be delayed. You should consider using a cell phone as your contact number, so you don’t miss calls from creditors seeking to verify your identity.

      Your name may also be removed from pre-approved credit offers and insurance offers for a period of time unless you make arrangements to put your name back on such lists.

    • How Do I Set Up a Fraud Alert?
      Contact any one of the three credit bureaus and ask them to place a fraud alert on your credit report. Once you do so, the alert will be added automatically to credits reports from all three credit bureaus. Here are the numbers:

      • TransUnion:  Fraud Victim Assistance Department, P.O. Box 2000  Chester, PA 19016-2000  Phone:  1-800-680-7289

      • Experian: 1-888-397-3742

      • Equifax: 1-888-766-0008

The fraud alert will remain in place for one year. Active duty military personnel may obtain a fraud alert valid for 12 months. When the time runs out, you’ll need to reactivate the alert. If you have proof that someone has stolen your identity, you can obtain a police report and have an extended alert placed on your credit reports for seven years.

    • How Can I Remove a Fraud Alert?
      If you decide you want to remove a fraud alert you’ll need to request it in writing. You’ll have to include your name, social security number, current and previous addresses, date of birth, and telephone number and send it to the credit bureau that placed your original fraud alert.