Identity theft may signal need for credit repair

The Federal Trade Commission recently released data from its Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book that found identity theft was the leading consumer complaint in 2010.

Last year, identity theft complaints totaled 250,854 – about 19 percent of all consumer complaints received by the FTC. Of the more than a quarter million complaints, 15 percent related to credit card fraud, while 14 percent involved schemes connected to utility and phone bills.

Identity theft can cause major damage to a consumer's credit report and credit score, as a thief can open up fraudulent lines of credit in a victim's name and rack up hefty charges. Oftentimes individuals will use credit repair strategies to remove unfair and questionable items from their credit reports.

Financial experts advise consumers to check their credit reports regularly to identify incidents of fraud. However, mistaken items on these documents don't solely stem from malicious intent.

In some cases, creditors and debt collection agencies may relay erroneous information to the credit bureaus. When this happens, speaking with a credit repair company may enable individuals to get the assistance they need for a swift credit fix.