Don't be afraid to look at your credit report. In fact, considering how often identities are stolen, its almost a given that at some point in everyone's lives something bad will occur to them in regard to credit. Someone takes out a card in your name, someone uses your name to subscribe to a cell phone service etc – the list is endless. While it takes them but minutes to do the dirty deed – unwinding the mess can take months. Its much easier if you catch it early on than trying to undo it later after there is far more damage done. So it should be a regular thing to go online to one of the main credit bureaus – EquiFax, Trans Union, or Experian. Every person is entitled to get a free copy of your credit report each year – you should not have to pay for it. However, most people should check their reports more often.
This is where a credit monitoring service can come in handy. Sure, it costs a bit of money, but they also notify you by mail and by email of ANY changes to your credit report – this way you can catch stuff really quickly, such as some lowlife in another state applying for credit in your good name . If you are on top of it, this really is not necessary, but in today's busy world, often this is a good idea. Just make sure you know and recognize any and all companies you might give information to for a monitoring service. There are a ton of scams out there. You can get this service through the credit bureaus directly, or often times you can call up your credit card company and they will offer you this service as well.
If you ever notice an issue on a credit card statement or your credit report, call the company whom the issue is with immediately. Whatever you do, if there are charges on a credit card you did not authorize or actually make DO NOT PAY YOUR BILL UNTIL YOU HAVE DISPUTED THE ISSUE. If you pay the bill, then that is basically saying you agree with all the charges. It only takes 15-20 minutes to call up the company and dispute the charges. Of course if you have paid the bill (unless its paid in full, and there is no balance on the card), you can still dispute it, but its harder to because they expect that you have reviewed all charges and by paying you agree they are valid. This goes with anything that shows up in the mail that says you owe for XXYY service that you never authorized. Don't pay it, even partially, or you basically are agreeing the charges are valid.
Make sure you document everything you discuss on the phone in writing. Get the name of the person whom you speak with – First and Last name, and note the date and time. Make good notes about exactly what you disputed and when you first discovered the issue. If it was on a monthly statement, make sure you make a copy of the monthly statement for your records. Also make it clear when speaking with them that the charges are completely unauthorized, and you have no affiliation with the retailer or service in question. You will need these notes in case somehow your complaint is not addressed or is brushed off. It does happen – you have written proof you talked to someone. Most companies however, are very good about this type of stuff and will take the charges off your card while they do an investigation. You will receive a letter in the mail in a few days asking you to describe everything that happened. This is where your notes and statement copies come in handy. Get all the requested info together and mail back as quickly as possible. This will speed things along and make it seem you are serious about the charges. Most of these letters will have a "due date" where if you do not reply by that date, they will consider the case closed. Do not let this happen, it is extremely hard to re-open the case if you do this and you may be stuck with the charges.
Most of the time, this will resolve the case within a week or of you mailing the required information back to the company. As a final tip, in the meantime – while they are investigating – DO NOT go to that retailer or service and charge stuff – if you must go there, use a different card or pay with cash or a debit card. After all, its kind of hard to dispute a charge from Macy's, then while its being investigated you are busy charging at Macy's – it just does not look good.