There are two types of fraud alerts: an initial alert and an extended alert.
An initial fraud alert stays on your credit report for at least 90 days. You may request an initial fraud alert if you suspect you have been, or are about to be, a victim of identity theft. An initial alert is appropriate if your wallet has been stolen or if you’ve been taken in by a phishing scam. With an initial fraud alert, potential creditors must use what the law refers to as “reasonable policies and procedures” to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name. However, the steps potential creditors take to verify your identity may not always alert them that the applicant is not you. When you place an initial fraud alert on your credit report, you’re entitled to order one free credit report from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies, and, if you ask, only the last four digits of your Social Security number will appear on your credit reports.
An extended fraud alert stays on your credit report for seven years. You can have an extended alert placed on your credit report if you’ve been a victim of identity theft and you provide the consumer reporting company with an Identity Theft Report.
To place either of these alerts on your credit report, or to have them removed, you will need to provide appropriate proof of your identity, which includes your Social Security number, name, address and other personal information that the credit bureau requests.
What Doesn’t A Fraud Alert Do?
While a fraud alert can help keep an identity thief from opening new accounts in your name, it will not protect you from an identity thief using your existing credit cards or other accounts. It also will not protect you from an identity thief opening new accounts in your name that do not require a credit check – such as a telephone, wireless or bank account. And, the fraud alert alone won’t stop any identity theft that is already under way. However, a fraud alert can be extremely useful in stopping identity theft that involves opening a new line of credit.