Credit Cards » Credit Card Guides » How to Set Up and Use Credit Card Fraud Alerts?
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How to Set Up and Use Credit Card Fraud Alerts?

Credit card fraud alerts are super important and can save you a lot of money and keep your score up. Here's how to set them up and use them correctly.
Author: Baruch Mann (Silvermann)
Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Baruch Silvermann is a financial expert, experienced analyst, and founder of The Smart Investor.  Silvermann has contributed to Yahoo Finance and cited as an authoritative source in financial outlets like Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC Select, CNET, Bankrate, Fox Business, The Street, and more.
Interest Rates Last Update: April 15, 2024
The banking product interest rates, including savings, CDs, and money market, are accurate as of this date.
Author: Baruch Mann (Silvermann)
Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Baruch Silvermann is a financial expert, experienced analyst, and founder of The Smart Investor.  Silvermann has contributed to Yahoo Finance and cited as an authoritative source in financial outlets like Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC Select, CNET, Bankrate, Fox Business, The Street, and more.
Interest Rates Last Update: April 15, 2024

The banking product interest rates, including savings, CDs, and money market, are accurate as of this date.

We earn a commission from our partner links on this page. It doesn't affect the integrity of our unbiased, independent editorial staff. Transparency is a core value for us, read our advertiser disclosure and how we make money.

Table Of Content

Key Takeaways

  • When you set up a credit card fraud alert, the bank or credit card company employee will contact you on a specific number, to make sure that it is you who is opening the account, before approving any credit in your name.
  • There are essentially three main types of fraud alerts. The initial fraud alert is valid for 90 days and it makes it impossible for the fraudsters to take on any new credit in your name.
  • The extended fraud alert is in effect for 7 years, but in this case, you have to prove that your identity was stolen. This requires filing an identity theft report to the Federal Trade Commission.

What Are Credit Card Fraud Alerts?

When you’re looking to protect your account, you want to make sure that you have fraud alerts prepared on your account. It will give you more protection and let you know if anything is happening to your account.

A fraud alert means that someone looking to grant credit in any form must double-check to make sure that you are opening the account.

It means they need to follow additional steps, including contacting you at a specific phone number or checking additional information. This is intended to ensure that someone other than you isn’t able to open new accounts. However, it does nothing to protect the accounts you already have open.

Why Do You Need a Fraud Alert?

Experian, Transunion, and Equifax are the credit bureaus charged with keeping your personal credit history. That information and your credit history are used whenever you try to get credit, such as a personal loan, car loan, or mortgage.

It can also be used in some ways by potential employers and even by potential landlords. If someone misuses your credit or your name, the fraud alert on your account will help you spot it quickly so you can ensure they can’t open any accounts under your name.

This is important because it means you won’t get any more negative,  fraudulent information on your credit report, which could hurt you regarding everything we discussed.

A fraud alert is something you put on your credit report so that if someone tries to check your credit, they know they need more information. It lasts for one year, and it’s entirely free. It means that the credit institution must contact you in some way to verify you are who you say you are and you are the one looking for the credit.

Fraud alerts can help you detect potential fraud
Fraud alerts can help you detect potential fraud (Photo by smolaw/Shutterstock)

How to Set Up Credit Card Fraud Alerts

Here are the main important things to consider and the steps to take when applying for a balance transfer:

1. Contact The Credit Bureaus

You can place a fraud alert by contacting one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion). The credit bureau you contact is required to notify the other two bureaus, so you only need to contact one.

 You only need to request one fraud alert from one credit bureau, which will be active for all of them. They must contact each other if they receive a request for any of the above fraud alerts.

 Make sure you look at when you’ve applied for the alert and when you can renew them so you don’t miss out.

  • Experian – Select ‘add a fraud alert’ to place an alert on your account. You will then be given the option of which type of fraud alert to place and the opportunity to select the one that applies to your situation.
  • Equifax – Select to place a free fraud alert or active duty alert. The website will then walk you through the simple steps to place the alert.
  • Transunion – Select to add a fraud alert and then choose which type of fraud alert you want to place. From there, you will be walked through the process of completing the alert.

Thieves are good at getting your social security number or personal information and then opening accounts under your name. The good news is that a lender wants to know that you’re a good candidate before they agree to give you any form of credit so that they will check with a credit reporting agency.

Once that credit reporting agency gets the request, they send your information or a fraud alert to let the creditor know they need to double-check the information they’ve been given.

2. Choose The Type Of Fraud Alert

So, what do you do if you suspect some type of fraud or danger of fraud on your accounts? You’re going to want to look at the different options to decide what works best for you.

  • Initial fraud alert
  • Active duty fraud alert
  • Extended fraud alert

The first type of fraud alert that you need to know about is the initial fraud alert. This is what you do if you think that you’ve lost any kind of financial information or a credit card. It’s something that you put on your card immediately.

The initial alert is good for only 90 days, making it difficult for anyone who might have stolen your card or your wallet to do anything with it. At least, they can’t open any additional credit. But they can use the cards that are in the wallet if you don’t put a freeze on them as well.

What’s even more important is that you call immediately to the fraud alert hotline to provide your social security number, your mailing address and your birth date to verify that you can initiate a fraud alert.

You will only get 90 days on this fraud alert but you will be able to renew the alert if you need to.

You just need to make sure that you remember to do so. If it expires you won’t have any additional protection for your account. You will also be able to get a free credit report from your credit reporting agencies as well.

The next option is an active duty alert, which is designed for those who are actively serving and about to be deployed. It lasts for a full year and will be able to be extended for as long as you are actively deployed with the military.

Because you are out of the area and you are not going to be applying for any type of credit this provides an added level of protection for your accounts and your credit. You would need to show proof of your identity in order to get this type of protection.

Even better, this also removes you from prescreened credit offers for a period of two full years.

An extended fraud alert is the final option and gives you up to seven years of protection.

You must prove that your identity has been stolen before you will be able to use this type of alert. You will need to file an identity theft report through the Federal Trade Commission in order to prove this.

Once you do this you will be able to send in the proof of your identity theft and get the extended alert set up for the next seven years to provide added protection for your account.

3. Confirm And Ensure Your Details Are Updated

Once you have set up the fraud alert, the credit bureau will send you a confirmation letter. Keep this letter in a safe place, along with other important financial documents.

 If you move or change your phone number, make sure to update your information with the credit bureaus to ensure that you continue to receive notifications if someone tries to open a new account in your name.

setting up credit card fraud alert

How To Remove A Fraud Alert?

Another good thing is that removing a fraud alert can also be simple.

No matter which type of fraud alert you place, you can contact one of the three credit reporting bureaus to inform them about any changes you want to put on the alert.

You can wait for the alert to expire or contact the credit reporting agency to request to remove them. Transunion will allow you to remove the alert through their online portal while Experian requests a written letter. Equifax requires a written request as well as additional documentation.

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Will a Fraud Alert Hurt My Credit Score?

A fraud alert will not affect your credit score or your ability to get any type of credit. It will make it a little bit more complex or time-consuming to complete an application, however you will still be able to get the credit that you need or want even with a fraud alert in place.

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act requires that a lender who receives a credit report with a fraud alert follow specific steps in order to verify who you are and/or contact you.

There may even be a special process that you need to go to in order to still get credit even with the fraud alert.

If there is a need for a manual review process you may be contacted and required to provide additional information to verify your identity. If this process is not possible the application may be denied because the creditor is unable to fulfill their requirements and obligations under the FACT Act.

You may also be required to contact the central credit office or you might get additional instructions for how to apply for credit through a written application and additional documentation to be approved.

Picture of Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Baruch Silvermann is a financial expert, experienced analyst, and founder of The Smart Investor.  Silvermann has contributed to Yahoo Finance and cited as an authoritative source in financial outlets like Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC Select, CNET, Bankrate, Fox Business, The Street, and more.
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