Most identity monitoring services offer credit monitoring with one credit bureau or all three credit bureaus: Equifax®, Experian® and TransUnion®. Credit monitoring alerts you to changes in your credit file, such as credit inquires, delinquencies, judgments and liens, bankruptcies, new loans and more. As we learned in a previous post, being denied for credit is a common sign of identity theft. While there is no surefire way to prevent all instances of identity theft, credit monitoring is one way to become aware of suspicious activity before you sustain significant losses.
Credit Monitoring Can Alert You to Suspicious Activity
If you’re like most people, checking your credit report is only something you do once a year. A credit monitoring service can provide ongoing monitoring of your credit information and alert you to possible fraudulent identity-related activity. While not all alerts are cause for alarm, being aware of the activity on your accounts can allow you to dispute fraudulent charges before any serious damage is done, and allow you to begin the resolution process sooner.
How Can My Credit Information Help Me Spot Identity Theft?
Your credit information is the first place to look when you suspect identity theft has taken place. Check for these red flags when reviewing your credit information:
- Mistakes on your credit report.
- Delinquent accounts you don’t recognize.
- Lines of credit you don’t recognize.
- Names you don’t recognize.
Mistakes on Your Credit Report
In some cases, the credit-reporting agency may commit errors on your credit report. This may be a simple mistake. However, an error on your credit report could indicate that an identity theft event has occurred. For instance, opening up lines of credit is a very common and costly form of identity theft, and monitoring your credit is the fastest and simplest way to guard against fraudulent activity taking place under your identity.
Delinquent Accounts You Don’t Recognize
When a criminal uses a non-credit identity element fraudulently, you might be able to detect the identity theft event on your credit report. A criminal might use your identity elements to handle fees-due criminal offenses, medical expenses, apply for a Payday loans, or initiate other transactions that don’t require a credit check. Then, when the criminal doesn’t pay the bill, the account may end up in collections and pop up as a delinquent account on your credit report.
Lines of Credit You Don’t Recognize
Identity thieves may use an element of your identity to open a new credit card account, or even apply for a mortgage, car loan, personal loan or other line of credit. If you see an account pop up that you don’t recognize, it could indicate identity theft.
Names You Don’t Recognize
Your credit report will reflect all of the names you have used when applying for credit. This may include variations of the same name — think John Doe vs. J. Doe — and maiden names. But when you see a completely different name on your report, it might indicate identity theft.
Visit our Identity Theft Education Center for more information on credit monitoring and what you can do to help protect yourself from the threat of identity theft.
This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal issues or financial issues involved with credit decisions.