Identity Fraud and Your Credit Report

A credit report is information about each person that is used by financial institutions to determine whether or not to give you credit. A credit report contains vital personal information about a person as well as employment information and credit use information. Your credit report is given to anyone who asks for it when they have your permission, primarily banks and other lending institutions who are considering giving you a loan or a mortgage.

It is vitally important that you check your credit record at least once a year from each of the three credit reporting agencies. Each agency may have different information about you and your credit history, so it’s important to check all three. They all offer one free credit report a year and this is an important step to maintaining good credit and for avoiding identity fraud.

In your credit report you will find information about your life – as a person, such as your mailing address, Social Security Number, phone number, birth date, etc. You will also find information on your employment history and your borrowing/credit history. Of course, the most important part of the credit report is the information about your history with credit and how you use it. Identity fraud can seriously tarnish your credit report in a hurry, most fraudulent people who’ve stolen an identity don’t bother to pay the creditors back. Your report will show you a history of your credit applications and histories, having too many applications is a negative on your credit report as is having too many unpaid, late or delinquent payments on your bills.

The three major credit reporting agencies are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Lenders obtain your credit report from one of these agencies, all of which have similar, albeit not exactly the same, information about you and your credit history.

It’s important to monitor your credit report and your monthly bills and watch for ‘red flags’ that may symbolize that you have become a victim of identity theft. Some of the red flags to watch out for on your credit report are:

    * Several loan applications made in quick succession at a variety of agencies. (Especially if you have no recollection of doing so.)
    * Many hits on your credit report for loan and credit applications over a long period of time. Some identity thieves are very tricky and go slowly with credit applications so as to not raise any alarm bells.
    * Any application made out of state.

It is important that you thoroughly read your credit report and make note of anything on there that you do not recall. You can always request a change to your credit report and if you suspect that you are the victim of identity theft, head to the police station immediately with your credit reports in hand.

It is a sad and unfortunate truth that anyone, even you, can fall victim to identity fraud. For the thieves, we usually make it quite easy – throwing away bills with information on it about us in our trash, throwing away application forms for credit and not being vigilant with our online financial dealings.

It is important that you protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity fraud – monitor your credit report and immediately report any suspicious activity on your report to the credit reporting agencies and your local police.