Monitor your credit scores and credit reports – this is one of the clearest ways to monitor for identity theft. By law, you have the right to 3 free credit reports per year (one each from Experian, Transunion, and Equifax). Each of the three credit reporting agencies collects information on you and publishes its own report with its own credit score and range. This means one or two of your credit reports could be fine, but the other might have a problem. If you don’t check all three reports you could miss something.

Keep reading to see how to request your free reports, and then what to look for on each.

How to Get Your Free Credit Report

Three of the credit bureaus (Experian, Transunion, and Equifax) work together through annualcreditreport.com, so you can request three reports at once via that website, by calling 877.322.8228, or by filling out the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mailing it to:

Annual Credit Report Requesting Service

PO Box 105281

Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

Learn more about credit reports at the FTC’s page on free credit reports.

If you’re reviewing more than one credit report, keep in mind that inconsistent updates between the credit bureaus is not necessarily a bad thing. Creditors are not mandated to report to the bureaus and, if they do, they not report to all three. That’s why you could see something on your TransUnion report that does not appear on your Equifax report. However, if you see something that’s clearly inaccurate on any report – like an account you didn’t open – follow the instructions to dispute it.

Review Your Identifying Information

Look at your report’s current and previous names, addresses, birth date, and Social Security number. If you see anything amiss here, that could be a sign of identity theft.

If you see any mistakes or major red flags, follow the directions on your report on how to dispute it.

Review Your Credit Accounts

Your credit report will contain open accounts that you owe money on, which includes debts like car loans and mortgages as well as open credit cards and store accounts. Make sure you recognize all of the open accounts.

Again, if you see mistakes or inaccuracies, follow the directions on the report to dispute.

Review Your Inquiries

Your credit report will also contain records of businesses that have pulled your credit. Check and make sure you recognize the inquiries. An inquiry you don’t recognize could be from an attempt by a criminal to access your credit.

Keep in mind that sometimes the name on the credit report may be different from the name of the financial institution. For instance, you could have applied for a loan online, and the bank’s parent company or associated institution did the credit pull under a different name.

Other Things to Check

As long as you’re reviewing your credit report for the purpose of preventing identity theft, you should check some other common issues as well, which could be impacting your score and ability to get credit. Here’s 7 common errors that can drive down your score:

  • Closed accounts reported as open
  • Incorrect balances
  • Incorrect credit limits
  • Being reported as owner of an account that you were an authorized user for
  • Incorrect dates
  • Accounts inaccurately labeled as late or delinquent
  • Accounts listed multiple times

Again, if you see mistakes or inaccuracies, follow the directions on the report to dispute.

We’re Here to Help You Review

If you need help understanding your credit report, reach out – we’re here to answer your questions. Visit patelco.org/FinancialJourney to set up no-cost call with one of our Certified Financial Specialists.