With all the news about security breaches and identity theft, many of us are looking for more ways to protect ourselves. Of course, we should all take basic precautions like setting difficult passwords on important accounts and keeping our Social Security cards private.
But what about more extensive steps? One option to consider is placing an extended fraud alert on your credit file. Here, we’ll talk about what an extended fraud alert is, the pros and cons of setting one, and how to get started.
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What is an Extended Fraud Alert?
A fraud alert is a sort of electronic flag you have the credit reporting companies place on your credit file. You can set a regular fraud alert even if you haven’t been the victim of identity theft.
With a typical fraud alert, businesses are supposed to go the extra mile to verify your identity before extending new credit. This type of fraud alert lasts three months, but it’s renewable. You just have to remember to renew it every three months. There’s really no detriment to placing this type of alert on your credit file. It can just be a pain to remember to renew it every 90 days.
An extended fraud alert, on the other hand, is only for victims of identity theft. You have to file an official Identity Theft Report to qualify for an extended fraud alert. It then stays in place for seven years.
Once you file this alert, you can get two free credit reports within a year from each of the three credit reporting companies. And credit reporting companies must remove your name off of prescreened credit offer marketing lists for five years.
An extended fraud alert doesn’t necessarily protect you from all potential fraud. Thieves could still use existing accounts to make fraudulent charges. And they may even be able to open new accounts if they can get past the additional safeguards.
But this is a simple, free option that doesn’t keep you from opening new accounts while adding an extra layer of identity protection.
- Check your credit report and score for free with Credit Karma
- LifeLock Review – Protecting Your Identity
- Related: LifeLock vs Identity Guard
How is it Different from a Credit Freeze?
An extended fraud alert is not the same thing as a credit freeze. For one thing, it’s free, while credit freezes can come with some fees. With a fraud alert, you simply have to verify your identity—normally over the phone—before opening a new credit account. On the other hand, a credit or security freeze keeps creditors from opening accounts in your name.
This means an extended fraud alert doesn’t offer as much protection as a credit freeze. But you also won’t have to lift the alert when you need to open a new account.
Pros and Cons of Extended Fraud Alerts
Because an extended fraud alert is less of a barrier than a credit freeze, it doesn’t have the same list of cons. You don’t have to mess with removing it and resetting it any time you want to open a new account. And because of that, you don’t have to deal with fees surrounding this step.
But because of this, an extended fraud alert doesn’t offer as much protection as a credit freeze. If a thief can “verify” your identity, they can still open an account in your name. So you’ll still need to be on the alert for potential fraudulent activity on your accounts.
On the pros side of things, extended fraud alerts do offer some additional identity theft protection. If you know your information has been compromised, they can help keep thieves from opening more accounts in your name. If you’ve been the victim of identity theft, they’re easy to put into place for that extra layer of protection
How to Place an Extended Fraud Alert
As long as you have filed an Identity Theft report, placing an extended fraud alert is pretty simple. Take these steps to get it done:
- Get a copy of your Identity Theft Report.
- Contact one of the three national credit reporting companies–Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. Go through their process (often online) to request an extended fraud alert.
- The first company you contact is required to contact the other two on your behalf. But you’ll want to confirm that this has happened.
- Record the date that you placed the fraud alert. Remember that it will stay in effect for the next seven years.
- Be sure the credit company has up-to-date contact information so they can get in touch with you as needed.
It’s really as simple as that.
If you’ve already suffered from credit or identity theft, placing an extended fraud alert can help you prevent it from happening again. It’s not completely foolproof, though. So consider some sort of credit monitoring so you can stay on top of your credit report. And get in the habit of checking your own report and score regularly so you can catch any issues early on.
Related: How to Recover from Identity Theft
Here are two great ways to get your credit score for free: