Why checking your credit score isn’t enough to protect your identity

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It could be a big mistake to just check your credit score and look no further.


Key points

  • Your credit score plays a very important role in your financial life.
  • You should check your credit regularly to find out your score.
  • You should also go beyond just checking your credit score and digging deeper into your credit report.

It is important to check your credit score regularly. Your credit score is a key financial metric that lenders look at when deciding whether to give you a loan. Other people use your credit score to determine if you are going to be reliable and responsible as well, including landlords and utility companies and even your car insurer.

But even if you want to keep an eye on your score, it’s not enough to fight identity theft. In addition to looking at your credit score, you’ll also want to take a close look at your credit report.

Why is it so important to check your credit report?

It’s very important to check your credit report, as well as your score, because you can spot early signs of identity theft and take action before big trouble starts.

When you check your credit report, you get a lot of information that doesn’t necessarily reflect perfectly in your credit score immediately. For example, you may see:

  • If there are unknown addresses on your report: This could be an indicator that someone obtained your personal information and used a different address to apply for credit or to redirect bills for a personal loan they took out illegally in your name.
  • If there are any claims you don’t recognize on your credit report: When you apply for credit, an inquiry is put into your credit history and it stays there for two years. If there are any inquiries on your report that you don’t recognize, this is a major indicator of identity theft because it means someone is using your information to apply for credit.
  • If there are unknown names on your credit report: If someone used your social security number to apply for credit but didn’t spell your name perfectly, that could also show up as an alternate name on your credit history. It’s also a red flag that something has gone wrong.
  • If there are judgments against you: If the credit was taken out in your name and the bills have not been paid, creditors may have taken legal action to recover. This will show up on your credit report.

By spotting these major red flags, you can be notified as quickly as possible that identity theft has occurred.

What to do if you spot signs of identity theft

If you identify information on your credit report that is cause for concern, there are a few key steps you will want to take to protect yourself.

First of all, it’s a good idea to freeze your credit. You can do this by contacting each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). By freezing your credit, you prevent anyone from opening credit in your name without a special PIN that is only available to you.

If there are accounts on your credit history that you don’t recognize, you’ll also want to dispute the information on your credit report and report the identity theft to the police as well as the FTC.

By taking these steps, you can mitigate the damage that can result from identity theft and avoid financial loss. Acting quickly makes responding to identity theft much easier, so check your credit report regularly at AnnualCreditReport.com to make sure you spot problems right away.

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