Annual Credit Report

How Your Annual Credit Report Can Show Signs of Identity Theft

You are legally entitled to one free annual credit report from each of the three reporting agencies. If you stagger the requests, then you can check your credit report once every four months and catch identity theft in the earliest stages. However, you need to know what to look for on the report. The next time you pull your credit report, here are the warning signs you should look for.

Inquiries

This section of the report tends to be long, and going through it is tedious. When you go down the list of inquiries, they should all look familiar. They should correspond to requests you made for new credit or larger credit limits. They might also be reports drawn from companies with whom you have established credit. However, be on the lookout for any applications that are completely foreign to you, as these can indicate that someone else is using your social security number.

Address and Employment

The addresses and employers you list when submitting an application for credit will wind up on the credit report. If you see an address or employer you do not recognize, that is a red flag that someone else is trying to use your credit. Typographical errors, like a misspelled street address, are normal. However, an address in a city you have never lived in should prompt further investigation.

Account Activity

Review the different open accounts on your report. They should all be consistent with what you currently owe. The credit reports can be a few months behind, so do not get too stressed if an account is not showing a recent payment. However, a balance on an account that you paid off a year ago is cause for concern.

New Accounts and Past Due Items

This is a major problem, and it’s one that you can hope to avoid by regularly checking your credit report. If you find an account that you never opened, then you will have to take further action. You should also carefully review the report for any items that are past due. If the accounts do not look familiar, then you are probably the victim of identity theft.

Regularly monitoring your credit report is only the first step. Catching fraud early can limit your liability and help you avoid countless headaches. If you see any indications of fraud on your credit report, there are certain steps you should take.

  • File a police report: Some agencies will require the police report, so be persistent and insist that they write up a full report with as many details as you have.
  • Fraud alert: Have a fraud alert placed on the credit reports. This alert will put a stop to new credit applications, allowing you to put an immediate stop to further damage.
  • Notify the companies: Notify every company that you believe has a fraudulent account for you. Use an ID Theft Affidavit to ensure that you submit all required information. The notification should be in writing, and it should include all pertinent information from the credit report. Inform them of the fraudulent charges, request that the accounts be closed immediately, and provide your correct contact information so the existing charges can be resolved.
  • Secure your credit: Change all passwords and ask for new credit cards from the companies with which you have legitimate accounts. Identity theft can be done through fishing schemes or with card scanners, so it’s best to play it safe and make sure that any information the thieves have will prove useless.
  • Federal Trade Commission: File a complaint with the FTC. They maintain a database of identity theft victims, and providing them with your information can help them fight this growing crime.

Identity theft does more than just damage your credit. The average victim of identity theft will spend more than 500 hours battling the problem and spend more than $3,000 dollars trying to fix the damage. The emotional toll is incredible, because the creditors who have been defrauded will be focusing on getting their money back. They won’t be inclined to issue a credit, and you will have to fight to prove that the charges are fraudulent. The sooner you catch the problem, the easier it will be to correct. Visit annualcreditreport.com at least once a year to receive your credit reports so you can review them, catch problems, and address identity theft as quickly as possible.