If you feel that your personal information – financial or otherwise – has potentially been compromised, a fraud alert for your credit reports is a great idea. The alerts, which are filed with the credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – put a message on your credit reports advising anyone who looks at them to take extra care in verifying that the person applying for credit is actually you. There are different kinds of fraud alerts and they come with different benefits.
How long it lasts: 90-180 days
Other benefits: Entitles you to extra free credit reports – on top of the free reports everyone gets once annually – from all three credit bureaus.
How long it lasts: 7 years
Other benefits: Entitles you to two extra, free credit reports from all three credit bureaus in first 12 months. After the first year, you get an extra credit report from each of the bureaus once every 12 months. You are also automatically removed from marketing lists for “prescreened” offers.
Active Duty Military Alert
How long it lasts: 1 year
Other benefits: Like with an extended alert, you are taken off prescreened marketing lists to receive unsolicited financial offers.
There is no cost to put a fraud alert on your credit reports. To put an extended fraud alert on your credit files, you will need a copy of a police report for the ID theft. You only have to file a fraud alert with one of the credit bureaus. That bureau will then contact the other two to advise them to do likewise. You can remove a fraud alert at any time by contacting any of the credit bureaus.
Keep in mind that fraud alerts don’t necessarily stop someone from applying for credit in your name. They can be thought of as more of a yield sign than a concrete barricade. If you want a tougher measure to guard your information, a security freeze is likely a better option.