**Originally published May 31, 2016. Updated June 29, 2020.**
As a security best practice, we often recommend that our members check their credit reports regularly to help protect against identity theft. This type of credit monitoring review is helpful for spotting potentially fraudulent activity, but it’s not always a straightforward process.
Credit reports may have different formats from one another because each credit reporting agency uses its own template. However, they all contain the same basic information. Make the most of your credit monitoring efforts by looking closely for these red flags:
- Incorrect old addresses: Even if your current address is correct, be sure to pay close attention to previous addresses. Identity thieves may have committed mail fraud by using your name and another physical address in order to sign up for credit cards or open accounts.
- Court decisions you didn’t know about: Part of your report will include a section usually called “adverse accounts,” which collects the negative items pulled from public records. These include court judgments, bankruptcy decisions and tax liens. This may be where you find out your identity was used in a courtroom without your knowledge. For example, a criminal may have claimed to be you during an arrest. Even if the claim amount is minor, it’s worth getting this fraud removed from your record, since it can count against your credit reputation.
- Collections for bills you paid or never had: Often, debts that are significantly overdue are sold to debt collection agencies. Mistakes can occur during this process, however. For instance, if the company selling to a collection agency has inefficient bookkeeping practices or poor data management, paid debts may get bundled together with other records. In some cases, an identity thief may have been the one racking up the debt, and you may not find out until it appears as collection activity on your report.
- Credit accounts you don’t recognize: Look carefully at all the data provided for your credit accounts, which can sometimes reflect over a decade’s worth of accounts you’ve opened and closed. This is one of the easiest ways to spot fraud during credit monitoring.
- Inquiries that seem suspicious: Most companies that can claim a legitimate purpose — like offering you a credit account or signing you up for insurance — don’t have to get your permission to view your credit report. But others, including employers, need permission. Look closely at which companies and individuals have requested your report recently to make sure you’re not being targeted for fraud.
Tools for Effective Credit Monitoring
If you spot something that doesn’t look right, don’t hesitate to report the error right away. The sooner you can start an investigation, the less damage control you’ll have to do. You can see below that IdentityForce members with three-bureau credit monitoring get a one-stop glimpse of their credit summaries and reports via all three bureaus. This is critical to staying on top of your scores, seeing your full credit profile, and protecting your credit score ratings.
IdentityForce members have access to free tools to help them manage their credit more effectively, including forms for contacting the three major credit bureaus to dispute errors. We also provide letters to help members opt-out of junk mail and email lists.
For IdentityForce members who are exploring loan options, credit products, and mortgage solutions, we also have a number of calculators available in one easy-to-access dashboard, so you can quickly see the impact a decision may have on your scores.
By getting a better handle on the details of your credit report, it’s likelier your credit monitoring efforts will be more effective in spotting potential fraud so you can take action.
Credit Monitoring Is Only One Piece of the Puzzle
Credit monitoring is just one element of protecting you, your family, and all those you care about from identity theft, but it tends to be reactive rather than proactive — alerting you after fraudulent activity appears. Comprehensive ID theft protection includes proactive monitoring of all the critical components that make up your digital identity, including personal information in public records, social media networks, the Dark Web, and people search sites. Identity protection can alert you when a new application is being submitted such as for a car loan, new mobile account, or home mortgage.
We’ve built best-in-class, innovative capabilities that continue to be named the #1 consumer-rated identity theft protection service throughout our industry. Additionally, our IdentityForce members receive full, white-glove restoration services to reduce the damaging effects of all types of fraud, theft, misuse, and unintended exposure of personal and financial data.
Let us show you how IdentityForce can help you protect what matters most. Start your free 30-day trial today!