You can never do too much to protect yourself from credit-related fraud. But no matter what you do, you still run the risk of being a victim. Fortunately, if that ever happens to you, there are steps you can take to increase your security even more in the future — so a one-time thief can’t keep using your information to open new accounts in your name.
To do that, you would put what’s known as a “fraud alert” on your credit reports. Let’s take a closer look at fraud alerts and when you might want one.
What is a Fraud Alert?
A fraud alert is a notice that you can add to your credit reports with the three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. It lets creditors and potential creditors know that you’ve either been a victim of credit fraud or that you’re worried you might be. When a fraud alert is placed on your credit reports, lenders are supposed to take further steps to verify your identity before allowing anyone to open new accounts, add additional cardholders, or increase credit limits on your accounts.
You can initiate a basic 90 day fraud alert or a seven
year alert if you’re a verified victim of identity theft. You may also be able to put a one-to-two year alert on your account when you go on active military duty.
When to Request a Fraud Alert
Here are four times when it might be a good idea to put a fraud alert on your account with the three major credit bureaus.
- You’ve seen suspicious activity on your credit report or in a bank or credit card statement .
- You suspect someone may have obtained your credit card information.
- You suspect someone may have collected other personal information without your consent (which can be used to open new accounts in your name).
- You’re concerned that you might become a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft, and you want to take preemptive measures to protect yourself.
Can you think of other reasons you might put a fraud alert on your credit report? If you’ve ever put a fraud alert on your own account, what drove you to do so? Tell us what you think of fraud alerts and how they have (or could) help consumers like you in the comments below.