One of the most beneficial tools at a consumer’s disposal is the credit report.
It not only serves as a laundry list of outstanding debt, but it also provides a comprehensive look at open lines of credit, credit card accounts, and more. With that information, it’s easy to stay on top of any suspicious activity and take swift action if someone is using your identity. A credit report can go a long way toward helping you uncover identity theft activity early when hopefully the damage is still somewhat contained.
New changes to how credit reports are compiled might be a big bonus to a lot of consumers, as well as to victims of identity theft.
After lengthy efforts by states’ attorneys general and other advocacy groups, the three major reporting agencies will no longer include two key forms of debt—tax liens and civil suit judgments—on consumers’ credit reports unless they came with complete identifying information like Social Security numbers (SSN). Once those two items are removed, the recalculated score is expected to increase some consumers’ credit scores by about 20 points, although some consumers’ scores may increase by as much as 40 points.
Although, it might not sound like a good idea to remove those two key sources of debt…
After all, as some financial groups point out, having a tax lien or civil judgment against you can be a pretty strong indicator of your likelihood to default on future debts. However, the Federal Trade Commission discovered that a significant number of consumers have found errors on their credit reports, some of them large enough to impact their credit scores. The new regulations are simply saying that these two potentially high-dollar debts will not be reflected on your credit report if your SSN and other identifying information isn’t included with them. That’s especially helpful if your credit has been impacted because someone has tried to use your identity.
The goal is to reduce the honest mistakes in reporting, especially due to things like common names, misspelled names, or variations that are only a few letters off, like James Smith instead of Jamie Smith. But more importantly, this is a huge benefit to victims of identity theft, as it takes one more false report off their good names. It can also cause entities to be more diligent about making sure the information matches the correctly assigned lien holder or defendant before it’s included in the credit report. If the entity that provided the information cannot prove it is your debt, then it won’t be included in your report.
It’s important to keep in mind that this only affects two of the many kinds of errors that can crop up on your credit report; that’s why it’s still a good idea to monitor your credit reports regularly for any signs that something is amiss, and then to take action immediately to correct it.
Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.