Fraud Alerts – Protecting Your Credit
2 min. read
By: FCU Team
What is a Fraud Alert?A fraud alert warns credit issuers, like banks and credit unions, that your personal data has or may have been illegally accessed.
The Benefits of Fraud AlertsThe benefit of a fraud alert is that the creditor is advised to reach out to you directly to verify your identity. This means that someone who has acquired your financial information may not be able to open credit accounts in your name. To use a metaphor, they’ll have all the ingredients to cook a meal, but not the pan to do it!
There are two kinds of fraud alerts, the initial alert and an extended alert. Initial alerts last 90 to 180 days. Extended alerts last much longer, seven years in fact! When you elect for this type of alert, you also forego the ability to receive credit pre-approval letters for a length of time. This is because your name is removed from credit marketing lists.
The Drawbacks of Fraud AlertsUnfortunately, a fraud alert’s power is limited. The alert would only show up in the case of trying to open new credit accounts. A thief would still be able to utilize existing accounts, such as a line of credit or a credit card, if they have access. A fraud alert would also be unable to stop the thief if they had more than just financial information, as they’d be able to bypass a financial institution checking their identity. Fraud alerts also ultimately depend on the diligence of the creditor, and they could also have an impact on your own, legitimate credit applications, as the creditor would need to confirm your identity every time you’re applying.
How to Add an AlertIf you suspect your information has been compromised, you must contact the fraud departments of one of the three major credit bureaus to start the process. You’ll then need to provide the fraud department all of your identifying information. Thankfully, you only need to contact one of the bureaus to both set and remove a fraud alert, as that data is then shared and extended to the other bureaus. The information for each fraud department is below:
Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022-2000
Consumer Fraud Division
P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374
Experian’s National Consumer Assistance
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013