Fraud alerts on consumers' credit files prevent other people from opening a new credit or loan account in their name or charging items to a credit card without their authorization. Creditors, lenders and others who see fraud alerts on a consumer's credit file should verify that person's identity before allowing any financial transactions. There are three types of fraud alerts offered by the three major credit-reporting companies, which are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Fraud alerts processed at one company automatically go on the corresponding consumer files at the other two companies.
Access the fraud-alert section on the website of one of the three major credit-reporting companies to set up a fraud alert with that company. Follow the instructions provided for choosing the appropriate alert for your situation. For example, set up an initial alert if you've lost a credit card but haven't detected any fraudulent charges. Fill out any online form provided by the company with your name, address, Social Security number and other personal information. Ensure that you select "initial alert" on the form. Expect an initial fraud alert to remain on your credit reports at all three credit-reporting companies for 90 days.
Use the same fraud-alert section of the websites of the three major credit bureaus to set up an active-duty fraud alert if you're on active military duty. Simply select "active duty" on any fraud-alert form provided instead of "initial alert." Expect an active-duty alert to remain on your credit files at all three bureaus for one year. Bear in mind that the three bureaus also automatically remove consumers' names from their lists to receive credit card and insurance offers for two years after active-duty alerts are applied to their files.
Report any identity theft incidents to your local police department if you have evidence that your identity has been stolen. Set an extended fraud alert on your credit files for seven years as a victim of identity theft. Fill out any required forms for an extended alert provided on one of the three national credit bureau websites. Send the forms with your police report and other information requested by the bureau to the address or fax number provided. Be aware that all three bureaus will remove your name from their lists to receive credit card and insurance offers for five years after they set an extended fraud alert on your files.
You should receive a confirmation notice from each of the three major credit bureaus after a fraud alert has been added to your credit files. Contact any bureau that doesn't send you a notice to ensure the alert is in place.