Navigating Identity Protection: How to Implement Fraud Alerts

Navigating Identity Protection: How to Implement Fraud Alerts

Identity theft is a growing threat, with millions of Americans affected each year. One of the best ways to protect your identity is by setting up fraud alerts with the major credit bureaus. A fraud alert flags your credit file and alerts lenders to take extra steps to verify your identity before approving new credit in your name. This makes it much harder for fraudsters to open unauthorized accounts.

This guide will walk through how to set up fraud alerts with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, the three major credit bureaus. We’ll also discuss the different types of fraud alerts available and key benefits of utilizing this free identity theft protection tool.

How Credit Bureau Fraud Alerts Work

Fraud alerts require lenders to take steps to verify an applicant’s identity before approving a new credit account. This usually involves contacting the applicant directly by phone or other means. An initial fraud alert lasts one year, while an extended fraud alert lasts seven years.

When you place a fraud alert, the credit bureau shares it with the other two bureaus. This means only one fraud alert needs to be setup to cover all three credit files. However, you still have to contact each bureau individually. Now let’s look at how to set up alerts with the three major bureaus.

Setting Up Fraud Alerts with Equifax

Equifax makes it easy to set up phone and online fraud alerts. Here are the steps:

Phone:

  • Call the Equifax fraud alert hotline at 1-888-766-0008.
  • Provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth for identification.
  • Request an initial or extended fraud alert on your credit file.
  • Confirm the contact phone number where Equifax can reach you. This is essential or your debit/credit card accounts could be declined when retailers try to contact you for purchases.

Online:

  • Go to www.Equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services
  • Click “Check for Credit Freezes & Fraud Alerts” and log in or create an account.
  • Click “Add a Fraud Alert” and fill out the online fraud alert form with your personal information.
  • Check the box for an initial or extended alert and include your contact phone number.
  • Verify your identity by providing your Social Security number and answering security questions.
  • Review the fraud alert disclosure and click submit to finish placing the alert.

Once submitted, your fraud alert will take effect on your Equifax credit file within 24 hours. Equifax will also notify the other major credit bureaus of your new alert.

Setting Up Fraud Alerts with Experian

Experian also provides phone and online options for fraud alerts:

Phone:

  • Call 1-888-397-3742 for the Experian fraud division.
  • Specify you want to place a fraud alert on your credit file and provide your identification details including name, address, Social Security number and date of birth.
  • Choose either an initial or extended seven year fraud alert.
  • Provide your telephone number so Experian can contact you regarding credit applications.

Online:

  • Visit www.Experian.com and click on “Fraud Center” then “Fraud Alerts”
  • Choose “Add a Fraud Alert” and enter your name, address and date of birth then click “Continue”.
  • Select the state where your fraud alert should be place and the type of alert: Initial or Extended.
  • Click “Send Request” after verifying everything is correct.

Experian will process online fraud alert requests promptly and also contact the other major bureaus on your behalf.

Placing a Fraud Alert with TransUnion

Here is how you can place a fraud alert with TransUnion:

Phone:

  • Contact the TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Department at 1-800-680-7289.
  • Provide your name, Social Security number, address, phone number and date of birth.
  • Request either an intial 90-day fraud alert or an extended 7-year alert.
  • Provide the telephone number where TransUnion can contact you.

Online:

  • Visit www.transunion.com and click on “Fraud Victim Resources”.
  • Select the option to place a 90-day fraud alert or 7-year extended alert.
  • Fill out the online form providing your complete name, address, Social Security number and date of birth.
  • Check the preferred contact number for TransUnion to reach you at.
  • Verify your identity by answering personal questions generated from your credit file.
  • Agree to the Terms of Use and click “Send Request”.

The Benefits of Fraud Alerts

Fraud alerts provide several layers of key identity theft protection:

  • Require lenders to verify your identity before approving credit in your name, blocking thieves.
  • Alert you to suspicious activity like someone applying for credit as you via verification calls.
  • Ensure you are notified when changes occur in your credit file such as new accounts opened.
  • Help stop thieves from modifying your file with false information to enable their fraud.
  • Automatically extend to cover your credit files with all three bureaus with one request.
  • Completely free service available to all consumers vulnerable to identity theft.
  • Can provide peace of mind your credit is actively being monitored for fraud.
  • Remain on your credit file for 90 days or 7 years depending on the type chosen.

With data breaches increasingly common, having fraud alerts in place is wise financial self-defense. Fortunately the major credit bureaus make it simple to set up this important identity theft protection tool. Contact Equifax, Experian and TransUnion today to implement an alert.

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