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Use a Free Credit Report to Stop Identity Theft and to Rebuild Your Credit Rating

Updated: Mar 27

This image acknowledges that consumers have recourse when there are errors on their credit report.

You’ve done everything right to get a solid credit score and now you want to maintain that score in the eyes of lenders who can deliver the lowest interest rates. You’re not the only person interested in your credit score, because organizations such as banks and credit unions consider you to be a potential client. However, thieves want to use various means to steal your identity and ruin your creditworthiness.


Credit reports contain personal information including credit history, credit inquiries, personal statements, and public records such as bankruptcies. New credit cards are generally reported to the bureaus within 30 days of approval and they tend to report financial activity on a monthly basis.


You can get a free credit report from three primary bureaus – Experian, Equifax, TransUnion. While you might have to pay a bureau for your credit score, you could get a free score from your credit card issuer, another lender, or from a nonprofit credit counselor.


To quickly obtain your credit score – either a FICO Score or a VantageScore – go to Experian, Equinox, or TransUnion to get the three digit summary of your creditworthiness. More than likely, these three bureaus will each deliver a different numerical outcome. Credit reports fluctuate because lenders choose to report account content to only one or two bureaus. Essentially, bureaus use different raw data in their credit score calculations. While two bureaus catalogue an account that went to collections, one bureau might omit this information.


If you want to get your credit score, you can go to the bureaus and ask them for your score. There’s usually a fee associated with this service. If you ask a bureau for a credit report, your FICO or VantageScore won’t be included in this product. People need to monitor their credit report to ensure that it’s error-free and without potentially criminal activity such as identity theft.


If you've become a victim of identity theft, you can place security freezes on your credit reports and you can report the crime to IdentityTheft.gov. This government agency will create an Identity Theft Report and build a recovery plan that includes the filing of pre-filled letters and the sending of forms to credit bureaus, businesses and debt collectors.


An Identity Theft Report helps consumers fix their bills and repair their credit report. The Identity Theft Report tells creditors that the consumer should not be held responsible for these debts. Regarding your credit report, contact one of the three bureaus - they will contact the other two bureaus.


When you contact the bureau, they will place a fraud alert on your accounts. This increases the degree of difficulty for opening new credit in the name of the consumer. You will receive a letter from each credit bureau. This document will confirm that they've placed a fraud alert in your file. In the meantime, continue to monitor your credit reports on a weekly basis.


Credit reports show consumers when they opened a credit card, the credit limit and the existing credit card balance. These documents don’t show individual purchases. You’ll need to add up your credit card purchases on your own. What do you do once you discover that your balance is higher than you than you think it should be? Contact the company that issued the credit card. They can walk you through individual purchases.


This helps people. When consumers order their weekly credit report from TransUnion, they’re given the option to obtain their Equifax and Experian credit reports as well. All credit reports are free of charge. There are differences in your credit report from one bureau to the next. As mentioned earlier, this stems from variances in the reporting of raw data among the bureaus.


You’re looking over your credit report and your credit card balance seems high. Keep your credit card receipts. Crunch the numbers. If the numbers don’t add up, contact the issuing credit card company for an itemized description of transactions. Some errors are easier to spot than others. If your credit report shows that you’ve opened a new personal loan, this is easy to see that something went wrong. You never applied for a personal loan. You’ve become a victim of identity theft. Make the most of your free credit report.


Credit card theft is a common scam. How do you fix this problem? Contact the fraud department of the issuing bank and file a report. You should be able to find the number for customer service online. You have more recourse. Next, report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to build a recovery plan and to generate an Identity Theft Report. Consumer advocates will guide you through the recovery process.


How do criminals get information such as your social security number, your address, your credit card numbers, and your date of birth? A lot of this information can be found online. These security breaches are about stealing your money. How do criminals gain access to your personal information? They hack into consumer accounts for prestigious companies to obtain content that includes names, addresses, and credit card numbers. This information will be sold on the dark web.


While stolen information can originate from online data breaches, some information can be obtained by criminals through common theft that includes stealing your purse or wallet. Most people carry this information on their person: social security numbers, online login or password, debit or credit card numbers, bank account information, and driver’s license information. Keep a close eye on the content in your purse or wallet. File away contact information for each of these organizations and contact them immediately to report lost or stolen property.

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