It seems like practically every week there is a new story about another company that has been the victim of a hacking crime. If you have not already been the victim of a data breach or had your personal identifying information compromised in some other way, it is really only a matter of time. Identity thieves do not discriminate. Everyone is a potential target.
Detecting a Problem
Unfortunately you might not know that you are a victim of identity theft until evidence of a problem shows up on your credit reports. This is yet another important reason why you need to check your credit reports regularly. One of the first places evidence of identity theft may appear is in the “Inquiries” section of your credit report. This section contains a list of everyone and every company that has accessed your credit file within the past 24 months.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that the credit bureaus disclose who has had access to your credit reports. Therefore, if someone has fraudulently applied for new credit in your name and a lender pulled your credit report as part of an unauthorized application, that credit inquiry would be included on your credit reports.
When you check the inquiries section of your reports you should look for any credit pulls you do not recognize and did not authorize. If those inquiries were not requested by your current creditors (who do actually have the right to view your credit reports), then unauthorized inquiries could potentially signify a problem. Someone may be trying to open fraudulent accounts in your name, or they may have already done so.
Addressing a Problem
If you believe a thief might be applying for fraudulent accounts in your name, there are a few steps you can take to try to protect your credit.
- Dispute the Unauthorized Inquiry
You have the right to dispute any information on your credit reports which you believe to be incorrect, including unauthorized inquiries. When you dispute any item on your credit reports the credit bureaus are required under the FCRA to investigate your claim and either verify the accuracy of the item in question or remove it from your credit reports.
- Place Fraud Alerts on Your Three Credit Reports
If you suspect someone has tried to open credit accounts in your name is you may also place a free, 90-day fraud alert on your credit reports. When you place a fraud alert any lender that pulls your credit reports is required to confirm that the new application is valid, which is normally done by them calling you at the number you included on your credit report as part of the alert. If you place a fraud alert on any 1 of your credit reports, that credit bureau is obligated under Federal law to notify the 2 remaining bureaus. You can also extend your initial 90-day fraud alert to 7 years, if you wish, though you will be required to submit something known as your “identity theft report” to the credit bureaus in order to do so. The identity theft report may include you having to file a police report.
- Request a Credit Freeze
Perhaps the most effective way to prevent anyone from opening fraudulent accounts in your name is to place a credit freeze (aka a “security freeze”) on all 3 of your credit reports with each credit bureau individually. A freeze will take your credit reports out of circulation, preventing new lenders from accessing your credit information altogether. You will be issued a PIN number which you can later use to “thaw” your reports whenever you want to make a legitimate credit application of your own.
Better Day Consultanting, The fastest growing credit repair firm in the U.S. Call now: 833-522-0200 www.betterdayconsulting.com