4 things to do if you spot an unauthorized credit inquiry

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Imagine this troubling scenario: You’re looking at your credit report, and you spot a hard inquiry that you don’t recognize.

What if these hard inquiries are appearing on your report — and you don’t believe you authorized them? This may indicate a number of things, including fraud.

Here are four things you can do if you suspect unauthorized credit inquiries on your report.

1. Contact the company that made the inquiry

You can ask the company to prove that you authorized a credit inquiry and request that it notify the major credit bureaus — TransUnion and Equifax — to remove the inquiry from your credit report if it was a reporting error.

2. Report and document the fraud

If you suspect identity theft because of hard inquiries you don’t recognise, go to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website where you can report an identity theft complaint.

You may also want to file a police report, which you may need to provide if you decide to place an extended fraud alert on your credit report.

3. Notify and dispute the unauthorized inquiry with the credit bureaus

You can dispute any information on your credit report that you believe is wrong. You can ask the credit bureaus, TransUnion and Equifax, to correct errors for free.

4. Place a fraud alert

You can ask the credit bureaus to put a fraud alert on your credit report if you believe you’ve been a victim of fraud. A fraud alert let’s lenders know to contact you and confirm your identity before they approve any applications for credit. 

You may need to provide identification and a sworn statement to prove that you’ve been a victim of fraud.

What’s a hard inquiry?

On your credit report, you could find two types of credit inquiries (also known as pulls): hard and soft.

Soft inquiries are credit checks that appear in your credit report but only you can see them, these include when you request your own credit report, or when a business asks for your credit report to update their records about an existing account you have with them. Soft inquiries don’t affect your credit score in any way.  

Hard inquiries are credit checks that appear in your credit report and count toward your credit score. Anyone who views your credit report will see these inquiries, such as applications for credit cards, rental applications, and even some employment applications.   

Multiple hard inquiries within a short period of time might alarm potential creditors, who may worry that you’ve taken out too much credit to pay back.

Credit bureaus may keep positive or negative information on your credit report for different periods of time.

How can you determine whether a credit inquiry was authorized?

There may be a number of ways you can determine if a credit inquiry on your report was authorized. Sometimes, it may be a case of mistaken identity.

Occasionally, the name of the inquiry on your report may be different from the name of the entity pulling your report.

For example, if you applied for a retail store credit card, the entity listed on your report might be under the name of the bank issuing the card, not the name of the store.

Or, you may have forgotten that you authorized an inquiry. If you contact the company listed beside the inquiry on your credit report, it should be able to provide proof that you authorized the hard pull.

An unauthorized hard inquiry could be an indicator of identity theft and warrants swift attention.

Credit Karma’s Credit Protect feature alerts you to activity on your report – so you can spot identity theft and fraud quickly.

Bottom line

If you overlook the credit inquiries section on your credit reports, you could be missing signals that a person or company is trying to open credit accounts under your name without your permission.

It’s a good idea to investigate and dispute any hard inquiries that you don’t believe you authorized with the companies that conducted them as well as with the bureaus reporting the errors.