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Common Signs of Identity Fraud on Your Credit Report

Identity theft can happen to anyone. It can be overwhelming and leave you feeling vulnerable when it happens to you. Retaining an experienced Florida identity fraud lawyer in your corner with Sharmin & Sharmin, Attorneys at Law, may make the experience a little bit easier. This support may allow you more time and energy to return to your daily life while knowing someone is advocating for you. 

Common Signs of Identity Fraud on Your Credit Report

Checking Your Credit Report

You should check your credit report at least annually for inaccuracies or red flags. However, if you have recently lost your wallet, ID, or credit and debit cards, you may want to review your report more frequently to catch potentially fraudulent activity. Keeping a diligent eye on your credit report can help you see fraud quickly and take action to get it rectified. 

You can order your free annual credit report through freecreditreport.com. They are the only website approved by the federal government to issue a free yearly report from the three credit reporting agencies. You can request a credit report from each agency, and if you stagger the requests, it may give you more ongoing access without having to pay.

Your Credit Report Explained

Once received, your credit report will have some critical information. This may include

  • Name, address, and social security number
  • Credit Cards
  • Loans
  • Balances of money owed
  • Timeliness of payments. 
  • Inquiries

When you review your report, you are looking for any accounts or activity that you don’t recognize or that is incorrect, including any hard pull inquiries. 

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) states that there are two types of inquiries that you will see on your credit report. These are:

  • Hard inquiry: typically done by a lender. These inquiries frequently harm your credit because reporting agencies consider how often you try to get additional credit when they calculate your credit score. 
  • Soft inquiry: this will not affect your credit score and is frequently used for preapproval or even credit reviews by existing lenders. It is just an observation of your current report.

Credit Reporting Agencies

The three credit reporting agencies are:

  • Equifax
  • Experian
  • Transunion

Should you find discrepancies with your credit report, you should contact them to notify them of suspected fraud. 

Errors on Your Credit Report

Errors on your credit report can be, unfortunately, common. Everyone is a victim of human error at one time or another, and ultimately, it is a human being who enters your information to reporting agencies. 

Sometimes, you might see a misspelling of your name or an incorrect middle initial, which may all be benign. However, that is not to say that you shouldn’t get it corrected when you see it because any discrepancy can be a sign of a problem, even if it is an innocent mistake. 

When It’s Time to Worry

While many small mistakes may be innocent, it is time to be concerned if you see unfamiliar activity. This may be something like an unfamiliar credit card that has been opened or hard inquiries on your credit. All of these should be taken seriously. 

An example of a situation to be concerned about regarding activity would be a new credit card that is quickly maxed out with no payments made. Not only can this damage your credit by increasing your debt-to-credit ratio, but it also hurts you, as it hurts your credit to have late payments or nonpayment. A significant decrease in your credit score may indicate a major problem. 

Addressing Signs of Identity Fraud on Your Credit Report

If you have identified concerning details on your credit report, it can be beneficial to notify the reporting agencies and request a freeze. You can do this online or by phone. When you inform them, your credit should be frozen within one business day, not allowing further activity. 

Beyond this, a couple of reports to file can act as documentation of the fraud and may assist you in getting the charges removed or accounts closed. You may want to file an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). After this, a police report may be helpful documentation, and they will frequently ask for a copy of the FTC report. 

If you see fraudulent accounts opened, you can make calls to the banks, credit unions, or lenders to get them closed for you. During these calls, you may also be able to start the process of disputing any charges the identity thief may have incurred. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has a guide on its website for handling the process. 

Protecting Yourself Against Identify Fraud

Hopefully, this isn’t a situation that you have encountered. However, if you find yourself among the nearly 300,000 reports of fraud or identity theft in Florida, you can do a few things to prevent it from occurring in the future. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has several resources to protect you from identity fraud.

Many of the ways to protect ourselves from fraud are simple. These are things like:

  • Don’t share personal information
  • Keep important documents in a safe place
  • Be careful of how you dispose of your mail
  • Review your credit report and billing statements regularly

Our adherence to these may be inconsistent, but little can keep us safer than good security practices and diligent observation of our financial records. 

On the technological front, we see protective measures like:

  • Passwords should be long and random
  • Passwords should be unique for every account
  • Don’t click on links from unverified sources
  • Be aware of any e-mails coming from an e-mail that you don’t know

Protecting Yourself From Identity Fraud

In living life, we do nothing without risk. Shopping online means we’re entering sensitive financial information in multiple places, and thieves are getting more adept at fishing and social engineering attempts to trick people into providing their information. Ultimately, all we can do is stay vigilant about reviewing our bank statements and credit reports, stay mindful when we give out sensitive information and act quickly when we notice something concerning.

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