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Placing Fraud Alerts on Your Credit Reports

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In today’s digital age, protecting your personal information from identity theft is more crucial than ever. One effective way to safeguard your credit is by placing a fraud alert on your credit reports. Whether you’re working through a debt resolution plan or simply being proactive, understanding how fraud alerts and credit freezes work can help you make the best decision for your situation. While both are excellent tools for protecting your personal data, they serve different purposes. Here’s a closer look at the differences between a fraud alert and a credit freeze and how to place an alert on your credit reports.

Understanding Fraud Alerts

A fraud alert is a notice placed on your credit report that signals to lenders and creditors that they should take extra steps to verify your identity before opening a new account or making any changes to existing accounts.

How Fraud Alerts Work: When you place a fraud alert on your credit report, potential creditors are required to verify your identity before extending credit. This typically involves contacting you directly to confirm that you are indeed applying for credit.

Types of Fraud Alerts:

  • Initial Fraud Alert: Lasts for one year and is ideal if you suspect you might be a victim of identity theft.
  • Extended Fraud Alert: This lasts for seven years and is available to victims of identity theft who provide an identity theft report.
  • Active Duty Alert: This lasts for one year and is designed for military personnel on active duty.

Understanding Credit Freezes

A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, restricts access to your credit report entirely, making it more difficult for identity thieves to open accounts in your name.

How Credit Freezes Work: When you place a credit freeze on your report, lenders cannot access your credit report to approve new credit applications. This prevents anyone from opening new accounts in your name without your explicit permission.

Key Differences:

  • Access to Credit: While a fraud alert allows creditors to access your report with additional verification, a credit freeze blocks access entirely unless you lift the freeze temporarily.
  • Duration: A fraud alert is temporary and expires after a set period, whereas a credit freeze remains in place until you decide to lift it.

How to Place a Fraud Alert

Placing a fraud alert is straightforward and free. Here’s how you can do it:

Step 1: Contact One of the Major Credit Bureaus: You only need to contact one of the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. The bureau you contact is required to notify the other two.

  • Equifax: Visit Equifax Fraud Alerts or call 1-800-525-6285.
  • Experian: Visit Experian Fraud Center or call 1-888-397-3742.
  • TransUnion: Visit TransUnion Fraud Alert or call 1-800-680-7289.

Step 2: Provide Necessary Information: You’ll need to provide personal information such as your name, Social Security number, address, and date of birth. This helps verify your identity and apply the alert to your credit report.

Step 3: Receive Confirmation: The credit bureau will send you a confirmation once the fraud alert is in place. This confirmation will also include instructions on how to extend or remove the alert if needed.

Monitoring and Maintaining Alerts

After placing a fraud alert, it’s important to remain vigilant and monitor your credit regularly.

Check Your Credit Reports: Obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major bureaus through Review your reports for any unauthorized activity.

Respond to Alerts: If a creditor contacts you to verify your identity due to a fraud alert, respond promptly to confirm or deny the credit request.

Renew Alerts: Initial fraud alerts last for one year, so remember to renew them if you continue to suspect identity theft. Extended fraud alerts must be renewed every seven years.


Placing a fraud alert on your credit reports is a proactive step toward protecting your personal information and preventing identity theft. By understanding the differences between a fraud alert and a credit freeze, you can choose the best option for your needs. Whether you’re safeguarding your credit while undergoing debt resolution or simply being cautious, these measures can provide peace of mind and enhance your financial security. Stay vigilant, monitor your credit, and take advantage of these free tools to protect your financial future.