If you see an inquiry you don’t recognize, first check what kind of inquiry it is – hard or soft. Soft inquiries don’t affect your credit score and only you can see them. Hard inquiries typically happen when a lender or company accesses your credit report with the intention to extend you credit or apply for a new financial obligation.
Lenders can only access your credit report if they have a permissible purpose. That is, they must have a specific, allowable reason under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. If a hard inquiry is a result of fraud, it can be removed from your report. But just because an inquiry on your credit report doesn’t look familiar, that doesn’t mean it’s unauthorized or inaccurate.
Store credit cards are a great example. Sometimes, the name of the bank on the credit report isn’t the same as the company the card is for. If you request to increase your credit line on a credit card you already have, that will often cause a hard inquiry too. These are easy to miss or forget about when reading through a credit report.
One quick way to double check if you applied for new credit is to search your email for the name of the creditor on your credit report. If you find an application, check the terms and conditions, which will say if you gave the creditor permission to access your report.
If you still think a hard inquiry on your credit report is unauthorized, run through this checklist for suggested steps to take and further protect your credit health:
- Contact the lender directly
- The contact information will be in your report
- Ask the lender to confirm the account information and inquiry
- If the lender can’t confirm the account or if the inquiry was made in error, ask them to send a letter directly to each credit reporting agency that shows the inquiry to remove it from your credit report
- If you find out the inquiry was made fraudulently, contact the FTC
- Report the identity theft to the FTC
- The FTC also provides a personal recovery plan
- Send a letter to each credit reporting agency requesting removal of the fraudulent inquiry
- Include a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report with your letter
- If you are requesting deletion of an inquiry from your TransUnion credit report, send your letter to the address below:
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
- Add a fraud alert to your credit report
- A fraud alert will not prevent you from applying for new credit
- A fraud alert will alert creditors accessing your report to take extra steps to verify your identity
- Fraud alerts are free and do not impact your credit score
- Consider placing a credit freeze on your TransUnion credit report
- A credit freeze will help prevent new accounts from being opened in your name
- Placing a credit freeze is free and does not affect your credit score