A lot of online security and anti-fraud checklists will tell you to check your credit rating with the credit rating reporting companies. This is a good idea, and, under certain conditions, you can often get such reports free of charge from the ratings companies.
However, you should never get involved with the promises of credit reports that come via spam.
Oddly, these credit report spam messages have very little content, other than a URL, or possibly a URL and some extra text (which usually doesn’t display) meant only to confuse the matter and get by spam filters. There are lots of these messages: today I got five in only one of my accounts.
I checked one out, very carefully. The reason to be careful is that you have no idea what is at the end of that URL. It could be a sales pitch. It could be an attempt to defraud you. It could be “drive-by” malware. In the case I tested, it redirected through four different sites before finally displaying something. Those four different sites could simply be there to make it harder to trace the spammers and fraudsters, but more likely they were each trying something: registering the fact that my email address was valid (and that there was a live “sucker” attached to it, worth attempting to defraud), installing malware, checking the software and services installed on my computer, and so forth.
It ended up at a site listing a number of financial services. The domain was “simply-finances.com.” One indication that this is fraudulent is that the ownership of this domain name is deeply buried. It appears to be registered through GoDaddy, which makes it hard to check out with a normal “whois” request: you have to go to GoDaddy themselves to get any information. Once there you find that it is registered through another company called Domains By Proxy, who exist solely to hide the ownership of domains. Highly suspicious, and no reputable financial company would operate in such a fashion.
The credit rating link sent me to a domain called “transunion.ca.” The .ca would indicate that this was for credit reporting in Canada, which makes sense, as that is where I live. (One of the redirection sites probably figured that out, and passed the information along.) However, that domain is registered to someone in Chicago. Therefore, it’s probably fraud: why would someone in Chicago have any insight on contacts for credit reporting for Canadians?
It’s probably fraudulent in any case. What I landed on was an offer to set me up for a service which, for $17 per month, would generate credit ratings reports. And, of course, it’s asking for lots of information about me, definitely enough to start identity theft. There is no way I am signing up for this service.
Again, checking out your own credit rating is probably a good idea, although it has to be done regularly, and it only really detects fraud after the fact. But going through offers via spam is an incredibly bad idea.