It’s important to check and improve your credit score, but it’s also crucial to review your credit report. This document is available for free annually from one of the three main credit bureaus. It details everything from your personal information to account information and any past due accounts in collections. While it allows you to gauge your credit health, it can also help you spot credit card fraud. Use the following guide to familiarize yourself with the red flags. In doing so, you’ll know when it’s time to investigate and report an issue.
The impact of credit card fraud
Credit card fraud was the second most common type of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2020.1 Bad actors use either an existing credit card you have or open a new card fraudulently under your name to make illegal purchases or solicit cash advances. You’re left with the bill and the responsibility of disputing the charges. Not only does this take time, but you may also be left without much-needed funds while your financial institution works to retrieve them.
Even if missed payments or a high debt-to-income ratio are due to fraudulent activity, they will affect your creditworthiness until they are reported and subsequently removed from your report. For this reason, you may need to put off any big purchases or plans to open a new line of credit. That’s because poor credit leaves you with fewer and less favorable credit options and rates.
Thankfully, reading your credit report can help you identify credit card fraud and work to remedy it as soon as possible. The red flags below are just a few to look out for.
Red flags of credit card theft on your report
This warning can be easy to miss because the inaccuracies may be small. For example, you may see your name slightly misspelled or an address off by one number. Always play it safe and report inaccurate personal information in case the cause is a bad actor.
Lender inquiries you don’t recognize
A lender will pull a hard inquiry on your credit when you apply for borrowing products like loans or credit cards. If you see one you don’t recognize, this may signal that someone used your identity to apply for products like loans or credit cards.
Your score changes dramatically
Periodically checking your credit score can help you gauge what’s “normal” for you based on your credit habits and past or recent actions. For example, a hard inquiry can temporarily lower your score. If you recently applied for a credit card, that could explain a sudden, minimal drop in credit. But if your score plummets and you can’t pinpoint anything that may have been the cause, fraud may be the culprit.
What do I do if I fall victim to credit fraud?
If you suspect fraud on a credit card, the first thing you should do is contact your credit union or bank. They’ll freeze your card and issue you a new one. Then, go to the FTC’s website to file an identity theft report. This report will be used by law enforcement to investigate your claims.
General Electric Credit Union (GECU) wants to help with Improving the Quality of Your Financial Life by providing you with the tools, knowledge, and resources needed to protect your identity and respond to credit card fraud quickly. This includes:
- The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Credit, a downloadable eBook that teaches you how to read a credit report – and improve your score!
- ID Navigator Powered by NortonLifeLock™.2 This software, a complimentary feature on GECU credit cards, patrols the dark web and private forums for your personal information to see if it’s been compromised. To confirm your eligibility, GECU Visa cardholders can visit: cardbenefitidprotect.com.
- Online Banking and our mobile app are available to use for free. Your transaction history is always available 24/7/365. Periodically checking it will help you identify and respond to fraud swiftly.
- Webinars offer a deep dive on security topics so you know the best ways to protect yourself.
- Our Money Minutes blog publishes new content weekly, including security topics related to identity theft!