Your Credit Score and Identity Theft
Did you know that your credit score can be an indicator of identity theft? Let's look at what a credit score is, how it is affected by your own credit activities and when you should be concerned about identity theft.
Most of us are aware of the “big 3” credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. These three bureaus alone maintain a credit database of over 200 million U.S. consumers. Anytime you apply for credit, the lender will assess the risk. The best predictor of future payments is your ability to make past payments. Credit bureaus track and compile this information, aggregating it into a credit score that helps the lender assess the risk and, in many cases, approve or set the appropriate interest rate.
Here are 5 things to know about your credit report:
- Your credit score is affected each time you obtain any type of credit.
- The act of even applying for credit at multiple locations, especially within a short time, can have a negative effect on your score.
- Your score is also negatively impacted when you have a history of late payments, lines of credit closed for non-payment or a bankruptcy event.
- Maintaining and making route payments on multiple open lines of credit can increase your score.
- Credit scores may change month to month and will normally move slowly, unless you have significantly changed the way you use credit.
If you see your credit score start to decline, or if you see your score increase significantly without a known reason for these changes, you should investigate. It may be an indicator that someone else is using your credit. The best way to manage your good credit standing and be alerted to identity theft is to review your credit reports and scores regularly and watch for new activity on your credit report. You are entitled, by law, to a copy of your credit report annually with each of the three credit reporting agencies. Additionally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report each week at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Here are 5 things you can look for on your credit report to pinpoint identify theft.
- Look for inconsistencies and errors on your credit report.
- Check that your personal information is accurate.
- Make sure the accounts listed actually belong to you.
- Confirm that each account status is correct.
- Revisit expired debt and check to see that negative remarks fall off over time (up to seven years).
If you think you are a victim of identity theft, we’re here for you! If you have a Preferred or Advantage checking account, you have access to a professional Identity Theft Recovery Advocate. Your advocate will help dispute fraudulent credit activity to keep your credit and your identity YOURS! Learn more and report a claim here.