If you’ve accessed your credit report, odds are that you have seen some mistaken information in the file. Statistics show that the majority of people have errors on their credit report. Do these errors result from identity theft? Not necessarily. There are two types of misinformation found on credit reports, and it helps to identify each.
If you see a wrong address, wrong middle initial or even a wrong account on your credit report, it may not necessarily be identity theft. Because credit reports are compiled based on your identifying information, these errors might just be a case of mistaken identity. For example, one thing counselors see often is a confusion of information between people with similar names. While this is likely human error, it means that another person’s potentially damaging information is finding its way onto your credit report.
The other main type of false information on your credit report is data generated because someone is using your information to open accounts or otherwise commit fraud. One of the best things about credit reports is that they track this kind of account information and leave a “paper trail” of accounts that are opened in your name. If you see a credit card on your credit report that was opened, quickly maxed out and then never paid on, that should be a warning sign that something fishy is going on. Similarly, collections accounts, bankruptcies or liens you don’t recognize are causes for concern.
How to tell the difference
All incorrect information on your credit reports should be taken seriously. You need to get this information off your credit reports to protect your credit. In doing so, you may be able to determine if the false information is identity theft.
Since the formal dispute process to correct inaccuracies with the credit bureaus can take several weeks, it is best to get started with that as soon as possible. The easiest way to do this is at the website of the bureaus reporting the information, whether that is Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. Be sure to dispute all the incorrect information, since a wrong social security number or address could open the door for other incorrect information to get on your report.
While you are waiting for the results of the disputes, begin building your case challenging the information. Immediately contact the organization listing the false data. You have the right to access information that is being reported to credit reports under your name, so request the organizations’ records relating to the account or legal matter. If these records show that you are clearly being mistaken for someone — different address, different social security number, etc. — then your initial dispute should be successful.
If the documentation you receive from the organizations listing the account or legal information matches your identifying information, yet you still don’t recognize the data as being yours, there is a pretty good chance you have been a victim of identity theft. If this is the case, it may be difficult to get this information removed from your credit file because to the credit bureaus, it looks like you are the one responsible. You need to not only contact your creditors but also contact the police to file a report immediately. The police report will be vital for you to get the fraudulent account or legal information removed from your credit reports. It is also a good idea to put a security freeze on your credit reports at the websites of the bureaus listed above, at least until you are able to better secure your information.
Any mistakes on your credit report should be taken very seriously. Failing to deal with them in a timely manner could make your financial life much harder going forward. However, if you are vigilant and diligent, you can protect your financial information from unwanted intrusions.
As a member of Hanscom FCU, you can review your credit report at no charge. Meet with a Hanscom FCU representative to review your report and understand the information listed. You can also discuss strategies to help you raise your score. To set up your free Credit Score Review, call 800-656-4328 or visit any Hanscom FCU branch location. You can also click here to have a representative contact you.
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