They are virtually inevitable these days: Data breaches, phishing scams, ATM skimmers, and the like.
In every case of crooks grabbing your wallet I will probably grab the microphone, square up to the camera, and confidently advise you to “check your credit report.”
I concede: I have repeated myself. But what do I mean when I say “check your credit report?”
Let’s pick one apart and explain -- once and for all -- exactly what to look for.
A credit report is divided into four main sections: Personal Information, Credit History, Inquiries, and Collections.
1.) PERSONAL INFORMATION
What is in there: Your name, address, phone number, etc.
What to look for: Unfamiliar addresses are a red flag that someone else is trading on your good name.
2.) CREDIT HISTORY
What is in there: Your accounts, balances, and whether you are current with payments.
What to look for: Unknown accounts are a clue that someone has stolen your identity.
Double check everything in this section. Crooks will try the same companies you use (i.e. Chase, American Express, Bank of America, etc.). Be sure to carefully scrutinize the account numbers -- there could be duplicate entries. And one card might not be yours.
What is in here: Requests from creditors, broken into categories for those you initiate and those companies initiate.
What to look for: Pay the most attention to the inquires you initiated. If there is a loan or credit card application that you did not start, your credit is likely at risk.
What in here: Accounts that are in default are listed here, generally along with the amount of your debt.
What to look for: Any unusual accounts are a warning. It should come as no surprise that once crooks open an account in your name they don't exactly make monthly payments.
ACCESSING YOUR REPORT
It is through these four sections that you will determine whether a thief has targeted you.
Federal law allows you to obtain a copy of your credit report free of charge once a year from each of the three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
Washington has authorized only one website to access these reports: www.annualcreditreport.com
Imposter websites might claim free access. But they are likely to charge you -- or worse, steal your information.
YOUR CREDIT SCORE
When you obtain your free credit report it might drag on for dozens of pages and could contain a huge amount of information. But it does not include your credit score.
The credit bureaus own your score. And they will charge you to access it.
But you might not need to buy in. If all you're concerned with is checking to see if an identity thief is ruining your credit, you dont need your score.
Didn't find what you were looking for?