I was recently forwarded a letter by the owner of my old address that turned out to be from a credit card company, informing me my application had been declined. Ignoring that this letter was sent to an address I have not lived at for three years I didn't make any application for a credit card.

I have a subscription to my credit report, so in the next couple of months I may see any impact this has had, but what can I do in the mean time? Should I call the credit card company in question and tell them this wasn't me? Though I'm imagining I will be on the phone to someone who doesn't care and tells me it's fine because the application was declined anyway.

I obviously don't know what information was entered, other than the old address and my first/last name, but is there anything else I should do or check to mitigate any potential damage to my credit score?

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    If you really want the details out of the credit card co., do the considerable research to self-file a John Doe lawsuit for identity theft. And then use the discovery process to demand every document and recording. They must produce, or explain to a judge why not. As you may guess, John Doe means you are suing "unknown person" and "I hope to use discovery to identify him". Even if you never find him, the lawsuit gives you credibility when asking a company to remove false info or stop dunning you. It's pretty safe to sue John Doe; he doesn't sue back. Jan 31, 2017 at 23:41
  • @Harper That sounds like it would have a high risk of being dismissed as a frivolous lawsuit. Feb 2, 2017 at 3:51
  • @Harper have you or anyone you know actually tried that, or is it just conjecture? It doesn't sound like a good approach. Setting a credit-watch is easier, AFAIK.
    – smci
    Feb 2, 2017 at 4:34
  • @curiousdannii "frivolous" isn't automatic, a defendant must argue that in front of a judge. John Doe won't. The credit card company might to evade discovery, but that would be weird, and as such make the judge curious and draw attention. shrug. smci agreed, avoiding lawsuits is always better - close the barn door before the horse escapes. You would do this for vengeance, fun, to help convince creditors, or experience/education. Especially the last: knowing the court system makes you better able to defend yourself. Feb 2, 2017 at 5:35

7 Answers 7


fine because the application was declined anyway.

No it isn't fine. Credit card applications generally need a hard pull, so get it rectified.

Firstly check if an application was really made on your behalf. Some companies use this ploy to pull you into a scheme of making you apply for a credit card.

Secondly call up the credit card company and ask them about the details of who had made the application as you haven't done so and inform them that it was a fraudulent application. It might be somebody is using your personal details to do a identity theft in your name.

Thirdly get in touch with the credit rating firms and see if a check has been made on your credit report. Dispute it if you see a check in your record and have it removed from your report. If you subscribe to credit agency, get the identity theft protection, helps you in such cases.

And finally keep a diligent eye on your credit records from now on. Once bitten, twice shy.

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    "Secondly call up the credit card company" ,,, I would say it needs to be written communication posted via certified mail and reminders questioning who applied this asking for the details ... requesting to undo the damage to credit score.
    – Dheer
    Jan 30, 2017 at 13:22
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    If the rejection letter is from a recognizable credit card company, contacting them with contact info retrieved from elsewhere may be reasonable, but there's also the possibility that a phony "credit card company" might send out "rejection" letters in the hope that people will contact them and supply their personal info for "security purposes".
    – supercat
    Jan 30, 2017 at 18:59
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    I would personally be less concerned about the hard pull on my credit report, and more concerned that someone has my personal information and is trying to use it to open new lines of credit!
    – stannius
    Jan 30, 2017 at 20:05
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    @b3njamin Do not phone the number on the letter. Google the "reputable company" and look up their contact information then check it is the same. The letter may claim to be from them, you have no guarantee that it is. There are multiple possible scams going on here and right now we have no way to know which one it is - so protect yourself.
    – Tim B
    Jan 31, 2017 at 15:18
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    What is a hard pull? See here.
    – jpaugh
    Jan 31, 2017 at 22:13

This can be a case of someone trying to use your identity to obtain credit. I would put a fraud alert on my credit immediately. I went through something similar... got denial letters for credit I didn't apply to. A few months later I get hit with a credit ding from a pay day loan company that apparently allowed the thief to get a loan who obviously didn't pay it back. I had no contact with this company before they put the lates on my credit and it took over a year to get this cleaned up. Apparently this loan was obtained about a week after I got the first denial letter so if I put a fraud alert on immediately it would have most likely stopped this fraudulent pay day loan before it happened.

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    Wouldn't a suspicion of attempted fraud like this also suggest to report the event to the police? Jan 30, 2017 at 21:43
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    What is an 'alert' and is there a UK equivalent? I assume it's a sort of double-lock on your credit history, which declines everything unless you disarm it first?
    – James
    Jan 31, 2017 at 14:27
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    @b3njamin CIFAS
    – AakashM
    Jan 31, 2017 at 15:28
  • In the UK the police will in general tell you to contact the financial organisations, especially if no money has been stolen. The financial companies have the expertise with this sort of ID-theft fraud and will involve the police if they can find hard evidence pointing at an identifiable criminal.
    – nigel222
    Feb 1, 2017 at 12:26
  • Would you mind explaining why this takes over a year to clean up? What are the longest parts of the process? I've always wondered but never figured it out.
    – user541686
    Feb 2, 2017 at 11:15

This question has the [united kingdom] tag, so the information about USA or other law and procedures is probably only of tangential use. Except for understanding that no, this is not something to ignore. It may well indicate someone trying to use your id fraudulently, or some other sort of data-processing foul-up that may adversely impact your credit rating.

The first thing I would do is phone the credit card company that sent the letter to inform them that I did not make his application, and ask firmly but politely to speak to their fraud team. I would hope that they would be helpful. It's in their interests as well as yours. (Added later) By the way, do not trust anything written on the letter. It may be a fake letter trying to lure or panic you into some other sort of scam, such as closing your "compromised" bank account and transferring the money in it to the "fraud team" for "safety". (Yes, it sounds stupid, but con-men are experts at what they do, and even finance industry professionals have fallen victim to such scams) So find a telephone number for that credit card company independently, for example Google, and then call that number. If it's the wrong department they'll be able to transfer you internally.

If the card company is unhelpful, you have certain legal rights that do not cost much if anything. This credit company is obliged to tell you as an absolute minimum, which credit reference agencies they used when deciding to decline "your" application. Yes, you did not make it, but it was in your name and affected your credit rating.

There are three main credit rating agencies, and whether or not the bank used them, I would spend the statutory £2 fee (if necessary) with each of them to obtain your statutory credit report, which basically is all data that they hold about you. They are obliged to correct anything which is inaccurate, and you have an absolute right to attach a note to your file explaining, for example, that you allege entries x,y, and z were fraudulently caused by an unknown third party trying to steal your ID. (They may be factually correct, e.g. "Credit search on ", so it's possible that you cannot have them removed, and it may not be in your interests to have them removed, but you certainly want them flagged as unauthorized).

If you think the fraudster may be known to you, you can also use the Data Protection Act on the company which write to you, requiring them to send you a copy of all data allegedly concerning yourself which it holds. AFAIR this costs £10. In particular you will require sight of the application and signature, if it was made on paper, and the IP address details, if it was made electronically, as well as all the data content and subsequent communications. You may recognise the handwriting, but even if not, you then have documentary evidence that it is not yours. As for the IP address, you can deduce the internet service provider and then use the Data Protection act on them. They may decline to give any details if the fraudster used his own credentials, in which case again you have documentary evidence that it was not you ... and something to give the police and bank fraud investigators if they get interested.

I suspect they won't be very interested, if all you uncover is fraudulent applications that were declined. However, you may uncover a successful fraud, i.e. a live card in your name being used by a criminal, or a store or phone credit agreement. In which case obviously get in touch with that company a.s.a.p. to get it shut down and to get the authorities involved in dealing with the crime.

In general, write down everything you are told, including phone contact names, and keep it. Confirm anything that you have agreed in writing, and keep copies of the letters you write and of course, the replies you receive.

You shouldn't need any lawyer. The UK credit law puts the onus very much on the credit card company to prove that you owe it money, and if a random stranger has stolen your id, it won't be able to do that. In fact, it's most unlikely that it will even try, unless you have a criminal record or a record of financial delinquency.

But it may be an awful lot of aggravation for years to come, if somebody has successfully stolen your ID. So even if the first lot of credit reference agency print-outs look "clean", check again in about six weeks time and yet again in maybe 3 months.

Finally there is a scheme that you can join if you have been a victim of ID theft. I've forgotten its name but you will probably be told about it. Baically, your credit reference files will be tagged at your request with a requirement for extra precautions to be taken. This should not affect your credit rating but might make obtaining credit more hassle (for example, requests for additional ID before your account is opened after the approval process).

Oh, and post a letter to yourself pdq. It's not unknown for fraudsters to persuade the Post Office to redirect all your mail to their address!

  • Penultimate para you are thinking of CIFAS.
    – AakashM
    Feb 2, 2017 at 13:53

Do you have any ties to your old address? In particular are you the LANDLORD? This could have been a precursor application to test identity evidence and setup a mortgage. The perps may even have legally changed their name to yours and even be living in, or close to the house if it is a share house to intercept this kind of mail. Otherwise someone's database may have been breached, so it is important you try to work out where this information used in the application came from. If they are an illegal you may be racking up Council Tax somewhere or end up paying income tax on their earnings. In any case your character has probably now been damaged. So do follow it up right smartly.

  • No, it's a single occupier house and the owner is an old friend, so hopefully there is nothing malicious coming from there.
    – James
    Jan 31, 2017 at 14:28
  • Oh yes, anyone (in the UK) owning a house reading this, get your mobile phone and e-mail associated with your property at the Land Registry, so any attempts at mortgage fraud or selling your house while you are on holiday will instantly alert you.
    – nigel222
    Feb 1, 2017 at 12:28

I would keep the letter in a file for follow-up, and I would do what you are already planning to do and wait to see what shows up on the credit report.

If this does reflect an identity theft attempt, chances are that others will follow, so vigilance is key here. If there is a hard credit check, then you can dispute that on your credit report. If there is not a hard credit check, there is nothing further this credit card company can do to help you anyway.


The use of an old address would make me suspect that your data was stolen from some database you had registered to long ago with the old address.

I would think that contacting your credit rating firm and the credit card company is urgent.


It's marketing or SCAM tentative. Please check with extreme attention before clicking any link present in the communication.

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    Paper letters have clickable links these days? That's so cool! Jan 30, 2017 at 14:49
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    @DavidRicherby Kidding aside, in a few years retinal computing would make that a trivial exercise.
    – corsiKa
    Jan 30, 2017 at 15:51
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    @DavidRicherby: QR codes? Jan 30, 2017 at 17:24
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    @DavidRicherby some (scummy disguised as helpful) apps will attempt to auto-open URL they decode in QR codes. That is not a click, but does the same through proxy. Jan 30, 2017 at 18:32
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    Being on paper does not mean it isn't a possible scam. In theory, a bad guy could send out fake denial letters with a phone number or website or name that he controls. Then when people call to see whats up he can ask for enough details to pretend to clear up the fraudulent application. Then he has those details to actually commit identity theft.
    – Freiheit
    Jan 30, 2017 at 22:41

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