With the consistent rise in identity theft and credit fraud, it’s more important than ever to know what’s going on within your credit files. Identity thieves keep finding new ways to steal personal information from unsuspecting consumers and right now it appears there’s no end in sight. The latest ID Theft statistics state that in 2017 more than 16.7 million people were victims of identity theft.1
If you’re concerned about becoming a victim yourself, this should be the time to start monitoring your credit – if you don’t already. It’s better to keep an eye on your credit before someone else does.
Monitoring Your Credit
Step 1 – Is your credit report correct?
The first step to take when monitoring your credit is to make sure that your credit report is correct. For example: Are there any mistakes on your report? Does your name, address and employment status appear correctly? Are they any active accounts on your report that you never opened or has a lender added negative information about your loan status that you feel is inaccurate? These are just some of the items that could reflect identity theft or even human error.
If you discover inaccurate information, it’s easy to inform the consumer credit reporting agency (in writing or online). You can obtain a Credit Dispute Form through the agency, or if you have a credit monitoring service, it should be able to supply you with this form. Once submitted, there will be an investigation into your claim(s) and when it is complete, the consumer reporting agency must give you the written results and a free copy of your credit report if the dispute results in a change. In addition, you can send the same form directly to the creditor along with information that supports your position.
Inaccurate information, from a misspelled name to an account opened without your knowledge, is crucial to stopping identity theft problems from getting out of hand.
Step 2 – Maximize your benefits
If you have a credit monitoring service (or plan to enroll with one), utilize their benefits to the max. Since knowledge is power, especially when it comes to identity thieves and how they might be affecting your credit, make sure your monitoring service is on the cutting-edge of technology.
To maximize the protection that credit monitoring provides, be sure to take advantage of all the features it offers, some of which might include:
- Access to your credit report so you can check it on a consistent basis. As noted above, knowing for yourself what’s going on in your credit file is the first step toward protecting your credit from criminals.
- Access to your credit score which lets you to see the numbers that lenders use to assess your creditworthiness. Plus, if you feel it’s much lower than it should be, that alone can signify potential identity theft.
- Alerts of changes made to your credit file. This means if a new account is opened in your name, negative information is added to your report or even if there is an inquiry into your credit files, you will be alerted.
- Real-time monitoring. Many services provide real-time Internet scans that check to see if your Social Security Number, email addresses, credit and checking account numbers, etc. are being bought or sold on the dark web.
Step 3 – Check your account often
There are changes made to millions of credit records every single day. If yours is one of them, a mis-typed digit could mean credit problems that might impact your financial future. That’s just one of the reasons you need to keep a constant eye on your credit files. As previously mentioned, there are new identity theft schemes being created all the time – from complex Internet scams to something as simple as a criminal looking over your shoulder and stealing your PIN number as you conduct an ATM transaction.
If you take the time to consistently check your credit while also having a credit monitoring service provide backup, it could end up saving you a lot of time, money and frustration down the line.
Some myFICO forum members have had their own identity theft experiences. See what you can learn to help it from happening to you.