You can’t spot fraud on your credit reports if you don’t check them. At a minimum, you should request a copy of your credit reports once a year from each of the credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. When going over your credit reports, leave no stone unturned. Skipping a section here or a listing there could mean, of course, missing a mistake on the part of your creditors, or worse, a sign of fraud. If you are unsure how to go about getting your credit reports, read this article on Credit Report FAQs or this article on How to Order Your Credit Reports.
Check the Personal Information Listed on Your Report
After you get your credit report, make sure to check all the information that is listed for you. It is very important you check the following for accuracy:
- Are there any names listed that you have never gone by?
- Is the social security number listed not yours?
- Is there an address listed where you have never lived?
- Are there credit inquiries from lenders through which you never requested credit (promotional inquiries and credit reviews excluded)?
- Are there accounts listed that you have never opened?
If you answered yes to any one of those questions, you could be a victim of fraud. Immediately contact the credit reporting agencies and share with them your suspicions, requesting that a fraud alert be placed on your reports.
How to Report Fraud on Your Credit Report
As we stated above, if you suspect you might have found some fraudulent information on your credit report, it is imperative you contact the credit reporting agencies immediately. All three of the major credit reporting agencies have toll-free fraud alert hotlines. Here is the contact information:
- Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN or 1-888-397-3742
- Equifax: 1-888-766-0008
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
Follow-up the phone call with a letter to each credit bureau restating the nature of the problem. Such as which name is not yours, the incorrect social security number that is listed, the address you never lived at, or the company that requested the credit inquiry. Giving the bureau as much detailed information as you can is best so there are no miscommunications regarding the fraudulent information.
Keep in mind, of course, that sometimes credit inquiries we don’t recognize turn out to be ones we did indeed authorize. The company listed as making the inquiry may be a third-party service used by the lender from whom we requested credit. Or it may be that we simply forget having authorized a credit check, a likely scenario considering that credit inquiries stay on our reports for up to two years’ time.
Also, clerical errors are not uncommon on credit reports. They are quite common, in fact. It could simply be that you have been mixed up with someone who has a name similar to yours, for example, or that numbers have been transposed in your social security number.
If you find information on your credit files that appears to be wrong, don’t immediately assume the worst. But do take suspicious activity on your credit reports seriously. Catching fraud early can save you time and money.