Unrecognized Inquiries and Fraud

Dear Experian,

What do I do if I see a request for credit information from a company I am unfamiliar with?


Dear LCF,

If you see an inquiry on your credit report that you do not recognize, the first thing to do is identify the type of inquiry. An inquiry from an unrecognized business could be an indicator of credit fraud, but generally is not.

Types of Inquiries on Your Credit Report

There are two types of inquiries on your report: Requests viewed only by you, and requests viewed by others:

  • Requests viewed only by you, though there are a couple of exceptions. These are often referred to as "soft inquiries." Soft inquiries on your credit report are only visible to you, except: (1) insurance companies may be able to see other insurance company inquiries; and (2) inquiries by debt settlement companies you have authorized to access your report may be shared with your current creditors. They are typically preapproved offers and account reviews by companies you already do business with. You may not recognize all the companies that reviewed your credit report in order to send you preapproved offers. These inquiries are not shown to creditors and do not have any impact on your credit scores. Experian provides you with this list so that you have a complete record of who has requested credit information about you.
  • Requests viewed by others. These are often called "hard inquiries." They are the result of your application for credit or other services. If you haven't applied for credit or services, a hard inquiry from an unknown company could indicate someone is using your identity to apply for credit.

Multiple Inquiries for One Purchase

When you shop around for the best rate on a mortgage or auto loan, the lender may send your information to multiple companies searching for the best loan terms. Although you may not recognize the name of each of these individual companies, they will each appear on your report.

Multiple inquiries made for the same purpose within a certain period of time, usually 14 days, are typically counted as one inquiry by credit scoring systems.

Company Listed May Do Business Under a Different Name

An inquiry may also appear on your report under an abbreviated name or the name of a parent company that you do not recognize. This is most common with retail credit when an inquiry is done by the bank that manages the account. In this case, you may not see the full name of the retail store.

If you are unable to identify why your report was accessed, you should contact the company listed directly for more information. When possible, Experian provides contact information for the company on the credit report.

Fraudulent Inquiries on Your Credit Report

If you determine that an inquiry may have been a result of identity theft, you should notify the business who made the inquiry and contact Experian to dispute the information.

For more information on credit fraud and how to respond to identity theft, visit Experian's online Fraud Center.

Thanks for asking.
Jennifer White, Consumer Education Specialist