Using a Credit Check to Spot Fraud

24 November 2015

Before the advent of the internet, our personal information and data existed as tangible objects, for example the cash in your wallet. Identity fraud required a physical breach of security — identity thieves left shattered windows and broken locks in their wake just like common burglars. Victims of identity theft would come downstairs to find their offices broken into or turned out their trousers only to realize that they had been pickpocketed—they had clear, visual indications that their personal information had been compromised.

Now, with more and more of our personal data stored and exchanged via the internet, it has become far easier for identity thieves to steal information remotely, without giving their victims any indication that they were ever at risk. All too often, victims remain unaware of the breach until their cards are declined or they are denied a loan application for which they thought they would qualify.

If you know where to look, however, modern identity theft does leave visual signs, and catching them can give savvy consumers a chance to freeze ID thieves in their tracks before they can do lasting damage. To find indications of identity theft before they hurt your borrowing power, you can conduct a credit check.

Each of the two credit bureaus, TransUnion and Equifax, give Canadians access to their credit report once every 12 months. By regularly reviewing their files, consumers can spot activity that could indicate identity theft or credit fraud before having a card or loan application denied unexpectedly.

To conduct a Canadian credit check of your own, you must first request a copy of your credit report from either TransUnion or Equifax. Your free credit report is referred to as a “credit file disclosure” by Equifax Canada and a “consumer disclosure” by TransUnion Canada. To get your credit report free of charge you may order it to be either mailed to you or collected in person with a request via mail, fax, telephone or in person. For immediate online access, however, you must pay a fee.

To keep an eye trained on your credit files more frequently, sign up for a credit monitoring service. Services like these can notify you of certain activity that could indicate fraud and allow you to act more quickly than if you checked your credit files yourself every 6 or 12 months.