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What to do if you don't recognize an account on your credit report

Have you ever gotten a copy of your credit report and saw an account or item that you didn’t recognize? If so, this could leave you feeling unsettled, especially if the bills are high and you don’t recall opening a new account or paying for some of the listed items on your report.

Below we’ll discuss what you can do to help you in this situation, including:

  • Understanding inaccurate information on your credit card report
  • How errors can hurt your credit score
  • How to dispute items on your credit report
  • How to prevent errors or fraudulent activity
  • Credit card monitoring
  • Identity monitoring

Inaccurate information on my credit report

Your credit report could come from one or all three of the major credit bureaus — Experian®, TransUnion® or Equifax™. A credit report contains an incredible amount of important personal financial information regarding identity, open accounts, collection accounts, hard credit inquiries (credit checks), closed accounts and public records.

Sometimes, credit reports can appear to have incorrect information, such as an open account you don’t recognize or items you don’t recall paying for. This could be due to an error or possible fraud.

A lender or creditor could make an error when reporting information to a bureau about your account due to mixing your name or Social Security number with another’s. Fraud happens when someone steals important information like your Social Security number or credit card account information. Having this information can allow a thief to steal your identity, open accounts or make purchases under your name.

Fraud and errors that appear on your credit report are relatively rare and don’t happen often. If it happens to you, it can be alarming, but knowing that you can take proactive steps to dispute these items and resolve errors may offer some relief.

Typical errors you might find in your report include:

  • Items on your account that you don’t remember paying for
  • Accounts that you don’t remember opening
  • Incorrect amounts for certain items charged to you

It’s essential to monitor your credit to keep an eye out for errors such as these so you don’t become at risk of hurting your credit score. Using tools like Chase Credit Journey can help you gain awareness of changes to your credit score and empower you to understand your score better.

How errors can hurt your credit score

If errors go unchecked and unresolved, the consequences can exacerbate, potentially hurting your score even more. For example, let’s say your credit report shows a long list of purchases you didn’t make. You probably don’t want to pay these off (and you might not be able to afford to). But missed payments on multiple purchases could hurt your credit score, considering payment history makes up a large portion of your credit score (up to 30% depending on the scoring model the credit bureaus use). That’s why it’s important to know how to dispute these items on your credit report (more on this below).

Smaller errors, like misspellings of your name or home address, will not necessarily hurt your score directly. However, these errors should still be addressed and fixed as soon as possible to avoid future issues or delays in getting your credit report.

How to dispute items on my credit report

If there is an item(s) you want to dispute, there are a few steps you can take to correct your credit report and have them removed. Below we address some of the ways you can dispute incorrect items.

Contact the credit card issuer responsible

One way to fix inaccuracies on your credit report is by contacting your credit card issuer and calling them directly. They may put you into contact with someone on their fraud team to help address your particular error and find out how or why the account was opened in the first place. Be prepared to provide information like your name, birthday and Social Security number to confirm your identity.

You can also write them a letter disputing an item and providing reasons and evidence supporting your dispute. However, this will take longer, which may not be ideal if you’re facing fraud charges and you’re at risk of identity theft. For a potentially quicker response, you may want to send an email and provide screenshots or other useful documentation.

It’s best to try and report the error right away—otherwise, the fraud and errors could continue to build up without the appropriate action to intervene. Banks and issuers may not fix issues after a certain period of time. Check with your bank’s terms and conditions to make sure you’re able to dispute the items on time.

If your credit issuer is unhelpful or unable to remove the errors, your next actionable step is to report the error to the credit bureaus and dispute the charges with them directly.

Report errors to the credit bureaus

If you come across an unrecognizable account or any other errors on your credit report and they can’t be resolved with your credit card issuer, contact the credit bureau that you received the report from.

There are a few actions you can take when reporting your error to the bureau to ensure they get resolved, including:

  • Review your reports from all three credit bureaus to see if the error appears on all three reports.
  • File a dispute with the credit bureaus—if you’re sure the information is incorrect, contact the bureaus directly by phone, online or by mail to report the error and file a dispute.
  • Request a security freeze (otherwise known as a fraud alert) on all the reports. This helps prevent third parties from viewing your incorrect credit card information.
  • Escalate the issues by filing an online identify theft complaint to the Federal Trade Commission.

By reporting the issues sooner than later, you can avoid further errors and help protect your credit score.

How to prevent errors or fraudulent activity

It’s never easy dealing with errors or fraudulent activity. It can feel alarming that they could hurt your credit score. While we can’t always avoid fraud or theft, there are plenty of proactive steps you can take to help ensure your credit report’s safety. Let’s explore some options below.

A proactive way to protect your credit score is to put a freeze on your account. If you‘ve lost or misplaced your credit card, this could be a way to prevent someone who has found it to use it. You can also place a freeze if you’re traveling abroad and want to use a different method for paying while in a different country that uses a different currency. You can do this by contacting your issuer directly and requesting a freeze.

Credit card monitoring

One way to help prevent errors or fraudulent activity from appearing on your report is by monitoring your credit. Reviewing your credit reports from all three credit bureaus gives you a better chance of finding any suspicious activity early and addressing the errors head-on. You can also monitor your credit by reviewing your latest account statements and your recent payments.

Look into using tools that can help you with this. For example, Chase can help you monitor your credit and give you access to free reports and other helpful resources with Chase Credit Journey®. Chase also offers credit monitoring alerts, which is a way to monitor all of your accounts and alert you if there are any changes in your credit report that could impact your score.

Monitoring your credit card and credit score can help build confidence around understanding your credit and ensuring its safety.

Enroll in identity monitoring services

Another way is by enrolling in identity monitoring services . These monitoring services differ from credit card monitoring because they alert you of any sensitive information—including your name, Social Security number and age--that may appear in suspicious activity online. Use services provided by your credit card issuer as a way to help notify you of any noticeable and suspicious changes to your credit card accounts.

You can get services like these through Chase Credit Journey’s alerts. These alerts notify you anytime there’s new activity linked to your identity. You can also find out if your information is accessible on suspicious websites, get notified about data breaches and more. By staying aware and informed about your credit activity, you can be proactive about addressing any errors or issues that you may face.

You may also consider enrolling in identity theft protection services. This can help to ensure that expenses that you incur from identity theft can be covered through insurance.

In conclusion

Seeing inaccurate information appear on your credit report can leave you feeling nervous and confused. You may be wondering how this happened and what you can do to fix it. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to ensure that your credit card report gets fixed. Taking these steps, in addition to enrolling in Chase Credit Journey and monitoring your credit, can help protect your credit card score.

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