Nearly five million people had money stolen from their bank or credit accounts in 2017, so it quite literally pays to be vigilant. One of the simplest ways to keep an eye out for fraud is to check your credit report regularly.
We recommend checking your report like you would your bank statement - it’s often the first sign that you’ve been a victim of identity theft. It’s also an opportunity for you to correct anything that doesn’t look right.
If you’re not sure what you should be looking for, don’t worry. In this article, we’re going to walk you through your report, step by step, so you know exactly what to check. Don’t forget, with ClearScore Alerts, you’ll receive a notification when something’s changed or is due to change on your report. Monitoring these updates is a great way to stay on top of things while you wait for your new report.
To tackle fraud from all angles, why not follow our top tips for protecting yourself from fraud?
Track changes to your report in the ‘Overview’
When you open your credit report in the ClearScore app, the first thing you’ll see is your Overview. In this section, you can track all changes to your report (as well as upcoming changes). Each time your report’s updated, make sure you recognise everything in this section. For example, if you see a new credit account that you weren’t expecting, it might be because someone has taken out a credit card in your name.
At the bottom of your overview page will be a list of your current accounts and credit cards, as well as any debt and overdraft limits. Hopefully you’ll be aware of any debt you owe on these accounts from checking your bank statements, so nothing here should come as a surprise. However, if someone has committed fraud on one of your accounts, the debt value might be different to what you were expecting.
It’s worth remembering that your report is a snapshot of your finances on the day it’s generated, so balances can be up to 8 weeks out of date. But if you’re convinced the numbers don’t add up, we suggest you check with your bank that what you’re seeing is correct. It’s also worth getting in touch with Equifax to check that the information on your report is right - find out how to do this here. After all, mistakes happen, so don’t stress yourself out before you’ve confirmed that the balance is correct.
Confirm your details in the ‘Personal’ section
Because the ‘Personal’ section of your report contains exactly what it says on the tin, you should be able to check this fairly quickly. Take a couple of minutes to scan your personal details and make sure there are no discrepancies, for example, check that your current address is in fact your current address and not somewhere you lived years ago.
At the bottom of the ‘Personal’ section, you’ll see any protective registrations listed against your name. A protective registration is a paid service from CIFAS (a national fraud prevention service) that protects your identity from being misused.
CIFAS will put a flag next to your name in their database, signalling that you’ve either been a victim of fraud in the past (or could be particularly vulnerable to fraud in the future) or that you’ve paid for security. Companies and organisations who are signed up as members of the database will see that you’re at risk and take extra steps to prevent fraudsters from using your details to apply for credit. For example, if you apply for a product or service online, after seeing the protective registration the lender should make an extra effort to confirm that the application is really from you, not someone posing as you.
You can apply for a protective registration on the CIFAS website, or if you already have one, check that it’s still showing as active on your report.
Check your balances under ‘Accounts’
Your ‘Accounts’ section contains information about any credit and current accounts you hold. They’re split into sections like ‘credit cards’, ‘loans’, ‘mortgages’ etc., to give you the important details at a glance.
Firstly, check the overdraft balances on any current accounts listed. If anything looks strange here, it’s best to compare the figures to your bank statement, and speak to your bank if you’re still suspicious.
Then check that everything else is in order, such as the mortgage and utility sections. If you see something you don’t recognise, like a telecoms account that’s been recently opened but you don’t remember opening it, get in touch with the provider for further information. It might be a mistake on your credit report, but it’s possible that someone’s opened an account using your details.
Scan your ‘Corrections’ section
The ‘Corrections’ section shows you any notices of correction you’ve added to your report within the last 6 years. A notice of correction can be used to explain any information on your report that you don’t think accurately represents your financial situation, for example, if you missed a payment because you were ill and couldn’t pay. It’s a short statement you can submit to credit reference agencies, who’ll add it to your report for prospective lenders to see.
This section is unlikely to be of any use when searching for fraud, as it’s made up of information you’ve submitted - fraudsters are unlikely to take the time to submit a notice of correction on your behalf. We suggest you skip this section and head to ‘Searches’.
Do you recognise everything in your ‘Searches’?
In the ‘Searches’ section of your report, you’ll see a list of everyone who’s looked at your credit report. This includes soft searches, (such as quotation searches) which happen when you check your own credit report or your offers, and hard searches, (or ‘credit application searches’) which show up when a lender checks your report after you’ve applied for a credit product with them.
Pay particular attention to credit application searches in this section; an unexpected hard search is often the first sign that someone’s committed fraud against you. If you spot a search you don’t recognise, this could be because someone has applied for credit in your name.
Follow these steps to check whether the search is in fact fraudulent. This isn’t always the case - the search might simply be a quotation search, which happens when you check your offers, that you’ve forgotten about.
A quotation search will look something like this:
- HDD-PRICE COMPARISON-BARCLAYCARD for Credit File Request, or
- CAPITAL ONE (EUROPE) PLC for Credit Quotation
How to fix fraud on your report
If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, follow these 5 steps to prevent further damage:
1. Act quickly
Contact your bank(s) and lender(s) and let them know what’s happened so you can claim your money back.
2. Contact ActionFraud
ActionFraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime. You can file a report online or talk to their specialists by calling 0300 123 2040.
3. Contact CIFAS - the leaders in fraud prevention
CIFAS offer a ‘Protective Registration’ service. Banks or lenders will see this when you apply for credit, and they’ll take extra security measures to ensure that the application is actually from you.
4. Monitor your ClearScore report
Your report is updated once a month, but you can stay on top of any upcoming changes with ClearScore Alerts. If you don’t recognise something, you can dispute it with Equifax here.
5. Contact Victim Support
Victim Support is an independent charity that helps anyone affected by crime. Get in touch for free and confidential support, 24 hours a day.
Your credit report isn’t the only place you might spot signs of fraud. Learn more about what to look out for here, and follow our top tips for keeping yourself safe online. The best thing you can do is be vigilant, check your credit report and bank statements often, and take action quickly if something doesn’t look right.