5 things to do if you spot an unauthorized credit inquiry
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Imagine this problem: You’re looking at your credit reports and you see an extensive investigation that you don’t recognize.
What if extensive investigations appear in your reports, and you don’t think you authorized them? This can indicate several things, including fraud.
Here are five things you can do if you suspect unauthorized credit inquiries on your credit report.
1. Contact the company that did the research
You can ask the company to prove that you authorized a credit inquiry and to notify the major credit reporting agencies – TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian – to remove the inquiry from your credit reports if it is a reporting error.
2. Report and document fraud
If you suspect identity theft due to a thorough investigation that you do not recognize, visit the Federal Trade Commission website, where you can download an Identity Theft Affidavit form (it is a written statement of facts made under oath) to send to banks, creditors, and major credit reporting agencies.
Also consider filing a police report, which you will need to provide if you decide to place an extended fraud alert on your account.
3. Alert the credit reporting agencies
You can place a credit freeze — which restricts access to your credit reports — on your account by contacting each of the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
The agency you freeze with will not contact the other two, so you will need to contact each of the three credit reporting agencies yourself.
4. Put a fraud alert
You can place a free 90-day fraud alert online with any of the three major credit reporting agencies. The alert appears on your report and notifies potential creditors to verify your identification information before extending credit in your name.
When you place a fraud alert with one of the major credit reporting agencies, that agency must notify the other two.
You can also contact each of the three major credit reporting agencies to add an extended seven-year fraud alert.
5. Dispute the unauthorized investigation with the credit reporting agencies
Once you notify one of the major credit reporting agencies of an unauthorized investigation, they have an obligation to investigate. However, because investigations are generally considered “factual,” you may not be able to dispute the investigation online. Instead, consider calling the credit reporting agency or mailing your dispute.
Fraud-based investigations can be fairly easy to shut down if you provide proof, says credit expert John Ulzheimer, president of The Ulzheimer Group. However, if the company claims the research was authorized, removing it can be difficult.
What is a score-affected credit history investigation?
There are two types of credit inquiries (also known as pulls) you can find on your credit reports: the Score-Impaired Credit Inquiry and the Non-Score-Impaired Credit Inquiry.
A clean credit check is one that can occur when a lender pre-approves you for a credit card or loan, or when you request your credit reports. This type of investigation does not affect your credit scores.
Score-impacting credit history investigation or deep investigation is one that can be seen by potential creditors, occurs when banks, other lenders, and even landlords investigate your credit reports to approve your credit, and that can include credit cards, loans, or leases.
Multiple such investigations in a short time could alarm potential creditors, who may worry that you’ve taken out too much credit to repay, says Linda Sherry, a spokeswoman for Consumer Action, a consumer education and advocacy organization.
There is one exception to this—if you’re applying for a student loan, mortgage, or car loan, many lenders may ask for your credit reports, even if you’re only applying for a loan. In this case, many scoring models can count multiple investigations in a short period of time as a single comprehensive investigation.
A thorough investigation can stay on your credit reports for up to two years and lower your credit scores by a few points. This may not sound serious, but according to FICO, it can have a bigger effect on your scores if you have few accounts or short credit history.