What does my credit report have to do with identity theft and fraud? This may be a question you ask yourself when you see credit reference agencies talking about protecting yourself from criminals by gaining access to your report and checking it.
The truth is that your credit report can play a huge role in helping you monitor for identity theft and fraud, you just need to know what you’re looking for.
How does my credit report help me protect myself?
Your credit report contains lots of important information about you, such as your financial accounts, any debt you have and any searches made on your credit report by organisations when you’ve applied for credit. This information is regularly refreshed (e.g. with Noddle this is usually every 7 days) to reflect any updates given to us by your lenders and other organisations. Consequently, your credit report is sort of like a one stop shop for you to make sure the data held on you is accurate and that there isn’t anything unexpected there.
If you see any information that doesn’t look correct to you, it’s important to investigate. While it may be a simple error, it could be a sign of fraud.
What signs of identity theft and fraud should I be looking for on my credit report?
Searches: Once you’ve accessed your credit report, click on the search history tab. Here you’ll see a list of the latest searches run against your credit report and who’s done them. If you see a name you don’t recognise – i.e you’ve not applied for credit with this organisation – then it may be a sign of identity theft and fraud. However, it’s important to first check that the name of the company that’s run the search isn’t just the name of the parent company of a business/organisation you expected to be there. Once you’ve eliminated this possibility and you’re confident that the search is one you didn’t agree to, get in touch with the company who ran the search for more details, as it may be that someone has tried to apply for credit using your identity.
Financial account information: This tab in your credit report shows all of your current financial accounts with lenders, including any outstanding balances. You should check that all the accounts there belong to you and that the outstanding balance on your accounts are what you would expect. Bear in mind that it could take up to 7 weeks for any changes to be reflected in your report because of the 7 days report refresh period and the fact that each lender has a different schedule for reporting to us (it can take between 3-4 weeks). If there is an account there that you didn’t apply for or an outstanding balance is higher than it should be after the above has been taken into account, then this may be a sign of fraud.
Short-term loans: Here you’ll see any short-term loans you’ve applied for and much like in the financial account information section, you need to look for any details or new accounts you don’t recognise. If something seems off, contact the lender and try to get to the bottom of what’s happened.
How often do I need to check my report?
We recommend checking your report at least every month. If you’re signed up to Noddle, you’ll get an email reminder from us when your new report is ready, so this makes it easy to sign-in and make sure everything is still as it should be.
Is there anything else I can do to keep myself safe?
There are a few other signs of identity theft and fraud that we recommend looking out for. These include:
- Missing bank or credit card statements, as well as other mail
- Unusual charges on your statement for things you didn’t purchase
- Contact from a debt collection agency regarding money owed on goods you didn’t order or on an account you didn’t open
- A letter or phone call saying you’ve been accepted or declined for accounts you didn’t apply for
For more information, read our blog ‘Warning signs of identity theft’.
Think protecting against identity theft and fraud, think credit report
In 2016, the value of fraud committed in the UK reached over £1 billion, according to KPMG. This is the most it has been since 2011 and highlights how important it is to take steps to keep your information safe.
Your credit report plays an important role in this and the simple act of checking it every month could help prevent you losing money and having your credit score damaged in the process.