When a store owner shows up to work and finds hundreds of dollars of goods or cash stolen, what is the first thing they do? Head straight to the security cameras for a look at the footage. There, they can see a complete history of what went on in the store while they were away, pinpointing the source of the theft.
When we find out our personal information has been compromised, we might wish there was a similar security system pointing at our accounts. While you might not be able to point a camera directly at your identity, your credit file can serve as an accurate record of what is going on with your accounts, helping you identify certain activity that may indicate fraud.
Every time you open a new line of credit, be it an auto loan, mortgage or simply a credit card, your credit file begins to track any information associated with that account. From your payment history to any transactions or adjustments you make over the life of the loan, all of your credit activity is reflected and stored in your credit file. In that way, it serves as a security camera, documenting every credit transaction made in your name.
This is perhaps even more important to protecting your credit than a camera system in a store, as there is often little evidence of identity theft besides what shows up in a credit report. While a store manager might be able to see that the window in a storefront has been broken and the cash register is left open, ID theft rarely leaves a trace. Regularly monitoring your credit can help you spot what evidence there is, then determine the scope and create a plan for recovering your losses.
However, unless you sign up for a credit monitoring service, you will only be able to use your credit report to detect evidence of fraud if you check it regularly. Canadian consumers can order a copy of their credit report free of charge once every 12 months from each of the two credit bureaus, which we highly recommend everyone take advantage of. When reviewing your credit report, look over each account thoroughly. If you spot any lines of credit that you don’t remember opening, or other information that is unfamiliar, it could be a sign that your identity has been compromised. If you have an account with a credit monitoring company, on the other hand, it will be able to keep an eye on your credit files even when you can’t, sending you alerts whenever it detects certain activity that may indicate fraud.
Whether through a manual check or a credit monitoring service, once you suspect you have become a victim of identity theft, you can begin taking action to correct the information on whichever accounts may have been compromised. Doing this as early as possible is important, as having an incorrect credit file may impact your credit rating and your ability to borrow. If there are certain charges or accounts you do not believe belong to you, contact the bank or creditor immediately and let them know your account may have been compromised. They will assist you in investigating the matter, correcting your account and potentially reimbursing you for any fraudulent charges.
Without a close eye on your credit report, however, it can be incredibly difficult to realize you have been targeted by identity thieves. To learn more about how you can better protect your identity, or to sign up for a credit monitoring service, contact Credit Alert today!