Protecting Your Credit Report from Identity Theft this Holiday Season
According to the FBI, identity theft is currently the fastest growing crime in the United States. Pulling your credit report(s) at least once per year is essential to your financial well-being.
What if you have good credit, do you still need to pull a credit report? Absolutely! Regularly checking your credit can help ensure the information stays accurate.
Should everyone check his or her own credit report annually? Yes! Anyone 18 years of age or older should check their credit report to see who is accessing their credit information.
Here are a few tips for what you should be looking for on your credit report:
- Inquiry: In this section of your credit report, you can find the date and the name of the business who pulled the credit inquiry for up to two years. It is important to verify that you authorized these inquiry transactions because if you did not, this could possibly be a sign of identity theft.
- Personal Identification Information: Make sure that you recognize the information found in this section of the credit report. Verify your names/aliases, current and previous addresses, Social Security number, as well as current and past employers.
- Credit Information: In this section, verify information balances and payment history on credit accounts and loans currently open and/or closed. Late payments and account charge-offs and collections are found in this section.
Be sure and check that all other information on your credit report is accurate and complete. If you find information you believe does not belong to you or is not correct, contact the business that issued the account or the credit reporting company that issued the report.
Most people think they only have one credit report and one credit score. Actually, you have several credit scores and they may differ depending on which credit-reporting company your creditors use for reporting. You should check credit scores from all three (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) credit-reporting companies regularly.
If you know that you will be applying for a loan in the near future, it is best to review your credit report(s) at least three months in advance to allow time to dispute and resolve any errors. Federal law requires each of the three nationwide consumer credit-reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – to give you a free credit report every 12 months, if you request it.
How do you go about obtaining a free copy of your credit report? The easiest way is to use annualcreditreport.com, it is the only official site explicitly directed by Federal law to provide them.
Here are a few additional tips to help protect you from identity theft fraud this holiday season as well as year-round:
- Shred documents containing bank, credit card account numbers, and your Social Security number. Also, it is wise to shred pre-approved credit card solicitations.
- Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet.
- Install firewalls and anti-virus software on all your technology devices. Be sure to keep the software updated by setting up automatic software updates.
- Secure your wireless network with a password.
- Never provide personal information, such as your Social Security number, passwords, bank account, or credit card numbers to anyone over the phone, via text, or email.
- Consider subscribing to an identity theft protection service. Several companies offer services to help you in case you become a victim of identity theft.
At First United, we offer identity theft protection solution through Secure Checking. This service offers continuous monitoring, 3-in-1 credit reports, fraud reimbursement, and much more for the whole family. For additional information about Secure Checking, click here to watch a short video.
This holiday season, give yourself the gift of peace-of-mind while sending those identity thieves packing with only a lump of coal!