The key to stopping identity theft is catching it early. Unfortunately because of the fact that the government only guarantees a free credit report once a year, it is estimated tha the majority of Americans only monitor their credit scores at that time. But there are just a few simple ways to look at a credit report to tell if someone’s identity has been stolen, and this can go a long way in preventing further damage to the credit score.
The first potential sign of identity theft is incorrect information on the report. Rod Griffin, a spokesperson for Experian said that “If you see a name you’ve never used, a Social Security number that doesn’t belong to you or an address at which you’ve never lived, it could be a sign of fraud.”
This can happen because an identity thief may list his or her information as the victim’s, in order to receive correspondence on behalf of accounts they have opened up in the victim’s name. But, it is always best to check with credit bureaus about this false information before sounding the alarm. Sometimes the false information can be a simple mix-up, such as when the company gets someone’s information confused with someone else who has the same name. Sometimes credit bureaus can even confuse people with others whose social security numbers are only have a digit of difference between them.
Another sign that is almost always a sign that identity has been stolen is when the credit report shows inquiries that the victim doesn’t recognize. MSN has reported that “credit reporting agencies are required by law to disclose the names of any companies that have obtained your credit information in the last two years.” This means that when reviewing a credit report, all inquiries made in that person’s name in the last few years will show up. If there’s a company on the report that that person has never applied to, then there is likely a problem.
There is one situation where an unknown lender showing up on the report is ok. Sometimes companies, especially store credit cards and even some auto loans, will show up on a credit report as a different name. That is because these companies will use other corporations to manage their financing department.
The last, and most important. Sign that credit fraud has been committed is if a person finds an open account on their credit report that they have never heard of. This could simply mean that there has been a mistake at the credit bureau, confusing someone’s identity with someone else based on a common name or similar social security number. This could also simply be a company using a different financial provider to handle financing cases, meaning the name on the report is not recognized by the user. But most often, this is a sign of fraud.
Griffin, the spokesperson for Experian, went on to emphasize that no single one of these factors may indicate a problem, and that it is important to analyze them together. “It’s important to take the information as a whole and in conjunction with other indicators,” he says. “Things such as unauthorized charges on a billing statement, collection notices for accounts that are not yours, billing statements from an unknown lender or a call from an existing lender asking if you made a purchase that you did not make should also be taken into account.”
It is important to always be on the lookout for identity theft. CBS reports that approximately eight million people experience identity theft every year. This is a small minority of Americans, but that doesn’t mean we should let our guard down. When identity theft does happen it can be devastating when not caught early. Victims of identity theft are usually not liable for the charges, but they almost never restore their credit.
If you have been a victim of identity theft or have had difficulty with credit for other reasons, there is a way to help you begin to heal your credit score. That starts with opening new credit and making regular, timely payments. Stop by here at Scott McCorkle’s Liberty Buick GMC so we can help you start making regular, timely payments on a new auto loan!