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Check your credit report to avoid identity theft
If you’re savvy about all things credit-related, you probably know it’s a good idea to check your credit report regularly. It’s not enough just to give it a once-over before you make an application for credit to check that everything’s okay, checking it once a month means you’ll be able to pick up on any mistakes as soon as they occur.
However, it’s not just simple errors you should be looking out for – your credit report can also help you to see if your details have been used fraudulently. Let’s take a look at how to look out for identity theft on your credit report.
Getting in the habit
Identity fraud (or identity theft) happens when someone makes an application for credit in your name. Criminals do this if they want to get their hands on cash – often for illegal purposes. They usually won’t be able to obtain credit under their own name and applying for it with your details means that you could be left to foot the bill.
Checking your credit report every month means you’ll be able to spot this as soon as it happens, making it more likely that you’ll be able to stop the fraudsters before they’ve managed to get their hands on any money. If you find it a struggle to remember to check your report so often, set a reminder in your calendar or sign up for free credit report service ClearScore and Noddle – they’ll email you once a month to let you know your new credit report is available to view.
If your ID’s been stolen
Don’t panic if you find out that someone has committed identity theft with your info. As soon as you see that someone has taken out credit in your name, report this to the police via the Action Fraud service. They’ll be able to give you a crime report number and you can then give this to the credit reference agency that holds your file.
You should also get in touch with the companies that have been tricked by the fraudsters. This means contacting any lenders where criminals have taken out credit in your name and telling them that it wasn’t you that made the application. You might have to provide evidence for this – for example, a false credit application is likely to be made to an address where the fraudsters are based and you’ll be able to prove you don’t live there.
How to protect yourself
Of course, the best way to avoid problems with identity theft is to protect against it happening in the first place. Checking your credit report regularly isn’t the only way to do this, we’ve put together a few other tips you should follow to stay safe:
- Don’t write down your PIN or any passwords.
- If you’re entering bank details into a website, check the payment page is secure by looking out for the padlock symbol in the browser window and the URL should begin with ‘https://’.
- Shred your bank statements or sign up for online statements so they’re not sent out in the post.
- Install up-to-date antivirus software on your computer to ensure it’s protected against viruses and malware that can steal your personal details. You don’t have to pay for this, free antivirus software includes AVG, Avast, AVIRA and Panda Security.