Understand the tools available to detect and shut down attempts to steal your identity or commit fraud.
RentTrack's Credit Protection offers you a powerful collection of tools you can use to not only improve your credit score over time but also to reduce your risk of identity theft.
Identity theft occurs when your personal information, such as your name, birthdate, an online bank account password, social security number, or address falls into the wrong hands. This information may be used to open up new credit card accounts or apply for loans in your name, or in very extreme cases, access funds from your online accounts.
Monitoring your credit can help you avoid identity theft by alerting you quickly when new changes are reported to credit bureaus that could affect your profile.
Keep an eye out for the following alerts that might indicate fraudulent activity or an attempt to steal your identity.
Unauthorized Credit Applications or Hard Inquiries
You will get alerts whenever a new credit application is submitted in your name, or if a hard inquiry is made on your credit. Hard inquiries might happen when you apply for an auto loan or mortgage, but they should only happen if you have given consent for a lender to check your credit.
If you recently applied for a credit card or loan, make sure the information provided in the alert matches up with the financial institution you applied with. If you do not recognize the account, this could be an indication of fraud.
You will also receive alerts whenever a new address has been associated with your credit profile. This should only happen if you've recently moved and supplied your new address to a lender or creditor. If you do not recognize the address, this could be an indication of fraud. Identity thieves may attempt to change your address so that they can intercept sensitive personal and financial information sent via mail. If you see an alert with an unauthorized address, contact the financial institution listed immediately to report it, and check to find out if they've recently sent any information out to that address via mail.
An alert may also indicate that new information about your employment has been added to your record. If you do not recognize the employer, this could also be an indication of fraud. Be sure to get in contact with the company listed on the alert.
This alert lets you know that a serious new negative mark has appeared on your credit. This may be due to an unpaid account that has been sent to collections, or other legal action that has been taken against you. If you are not responsible for the unpaid account in question, it may be a sign that identity theft has already occurred. It's possible that a thief used your credit to take out a loan or apply for a credit card they never intended to pay back. Of course, it's also possible that the information was reported in error, so get in contact with the institution that reported the derogatory information as soon as possible.
I've Discovered Fraudulent Activity - Now What?
If you discover that you are a victim of identity theft, there's no need to panic. According to the Fair Credit Billing Act, the maximum amount that you are legally required to pay on a fraudulent credit account is $50. The bank or credit card company will reimburse the rest - and many of them will reimburse you for all of it.
The important thing is to stay informed so that you can prevent theft or report it as quickly as possible. This drastically reduces the chance that you will experience losses due to identity theft. If you are able to act fast and report the fraud, you'll avoid a worst-case scenario.