Despite an increase in credit card fraud attempts during the COVID-19 pandemic, only 33% of Americans have checked their credit reports in the past year — a drop from 39% in 2019 and 37% in 2018, according to a report from CompareCards.

Matt Schulz, the chief analyst at the firm, said cardholders are taking fewer actions to prevent identity theft than they were a year ago, although most claim to be more diligent about looking for signs of identity theft. Just 20% of those aged 75 and older reviewed their credit report in the last year, placing them at an increased risk of fraud.

Schulz said it's never been easier to check a credit report more often so there's no excuse. Back in April, when the pandemic was ramping out, the three credit bureaus: Experian, Transunion and Equifax made it to where a person could check their credit report for free once a week, no strings attached, at AnnualCreditReport.com. It used to be that a person could only check their credit report for free once a year.

A credit report is a table of contents of how a person manages his or her credit and loans over the years, so Schulz said it's important to check it because if someone steals a person's information and opens an account in that person's name using that information, the only way the victim is going to find out about it is probably through that credit report.

It's also important to check a credit report from all three bureaus because the report could be slightly different between them. He said there are more cases of errors and clerical mistakes than one might imagine.

Schulz said he believes many people are not taking data breaches seriously because they have "data breach fatigue." When data breach stories are constantly in the headlines, it almost becomes white noise to people, he said. They feel like their information is already out there and there isn't much more they can do to protect themselves. But people need to build identity theft checks into their regular financial routine. Check the credit report, bank and credit card statements and credit score.

"It's really vital that you take the time to look at your credit report, that you keep track of your credit score, that you make sure that you haven't been a victim of identity theft. All of this stuff really matters," said Schulz.

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