Five Clues of Fraud – What to Look For On Your Credit Report
We all know a solid credit score is extremely beneficial for borrowing money, but did you know the items in your credit report are a huge indicator that your identity may have been stolen?
Over 430 million people have been impacted by data breaches in the past five years. That’s more than the entire U.S. adult population, though not every American has been effected. It has potentially debilitating effects, like financial loss, as hackers attempt to use the identities of unsuspecting victims. Over half of these breaches contained information that can be used to file a tax return in your name.
Tax-related identity theft is a big-money crime, and the statistics prove it. In 2016, the IRS identified over 1 Million instances where fraudsters attempted to claim over 8 Billion in tax refunds.
So, how can monitoring your credit report help you spot a potential threat to your identity? Here are the top 5 things to look for when you review your credit report:
- An Unexpected Line of Credit
If you see a line of credit that you did not open or for which you did not apply, it’s a good indicator that your identity may have been stolen.
- Your Personal Contact Information is Wrong
Take a hard look at the name, phone number, and addresses listed on your credit report.
While you might initially suspect it’s a typo, don’t be fooled. It could mean that an imposter hacked into your accounts. Fraudsters who do this attempt to open new lines of credit in your name, and divert any paper trace of it to their own address.
- Your Account is Past Due
If you get a notice that one of your accounts is late or in collections –and you think it should be current, you might have a problem.
- Unexpected Hard Inquiries
If you receive a hard inquiry from a creditor, it may signal that someone is using your identity to borrow money under your name. What is a Hard Inquiry? Hard inquiries are questions sent from potential creditors who review your credit history. They are triggered anytime a person needs to tap into a line of credit — like buying a car or home, or opening a new credit card.
- Your Social Security Number is Inaccurate
Take a glance at your Social Security number. Are all the numbers listed correctly? If all but a few numbers listed are correct, this is an emerging and very dangerous form of identity theft called synthetic identity theft. This happens when a scammer creates a completely new identity using a Social Security number from one person and a fake or stolen name. The “shadow identity” name itself likely won’t appear on your credit report, but people who have been victims of synthetic identity theft have reported seeing an erroneous Social Security number on their report.
With the continued increase in reported data breaches, it is important to periodically check your credit score and credit report for signs of fraudulent activity.
If you come across something that looks suspicious, it is recommended that you promptly take the following actions:
- Tax Identity Shield® Members should call the Tax Identity Shield® hotline to get assistance applying for IRS protections. If a fraudster already has your information, they could use it to file a tax return in your name.
- Contact credit card companies or financial institutions to place a security freeze on your account to halt any further fraudulent activity. They should then re-issue you a new card or account.
- File a police report with your local law enforcement.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). To do this, call the FTC hotline at 877-438-4338.
- If any item needs to be disputed, connect with a credit reporting agency.