Archive for December, 2009

If you must Pay: Attributes of Credit Monitoring Services

Before you sign up to receive paid credit monitoring services you should make sure you are not paying for services you could get for free. After all, you are entitled up to two free credit reports a year from all three credit bureaus (depending upon the situation).

If you have any doubt about your consumer rights according to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act of 2003 (FACTA), take a look at this documentation. Your rights and responsibilities are spelled out here. A great place to find this documentation is at the Federal Trade Commission website.

Evaluation Tips

If you are seeking monitoring services for which you may have to pay here is a short guideline to help you along the way. Please view these tips:

  • Choose a website that has a clear cancellation policy. Also, before you sign up make sure you read all the terms and services as specified.
  • If you can, make sure you are receiving monitoring services you cannot otherwise get for free. It would take a careful study of federal guidelines to be sure, but you can use your best judgment. If you are not sure what your rights are you can take a look at the Fair Credit Report Act documentation.
  • Make sure you know whether or not you are going to receive the credit score given out by FICO or whether or it is from some other obscure organization. The FICO one is most reliable.
  • Find out who owns the companies who charge for credit reports. This should give you some idea as to whether or not the services are necessary-so necessary you would be willing to invest money.
  • Make sure the site you use is secure. One way to know is if you see signs that it is verified. You can also read its privacy or security policy.

Online Shopping Tips, Credit Reports, and Identity Protection

This is a general article with tips for people related to all aspects of online shopping. Part of this includes the safe retrieve of credit reports instantly, as well as protecting your identity while you shop online.

Basic online shopping tips for consumers include the following:

  • If you do not want to reveal your financial information such as bank account numbers or major credit card account there are ways to shop without it. For instance, some people shop with temporary gift cards or debit cards that have on it only a limited amount of money.
  • If you are going to check your credit report online be careful which portal you use. It is very easy to get free credit reports these days but it also is very easy to get your identity stolen. There have been some fraudulent sites posing as “free credit report” services so watch out.
  • You can find a legitimate way to keep tabs on your credit at all time. This is important in the event someone may somehow have stolen some of your financial information and personal records. Keeping track of your credit history can make you instantly aware of any unauthorized activity.
  • Obtaining a free credit report or monitoring your financial records on a regular basis can save you quite a bit of headache. For one it will protect you in the event you later try to apply for a home or car loan or if you want to acquire postpaid telephone service.
  • While you shop online and make decisions that may possibly be recorded on your credit report understand your rights and responsibilities. When you apply online for loans and other financial assistance make sure you do so on safe sites and study the application terms and conditions.
  • It is important that you understand your Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) rights and responsibilities. This set of consumer guidelines tells you how to handle potential fraudulent activity that takes place on your account.
  • Remember that according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act you are able to receive up to two credit reports a year (12 months). Usually you get one a year for initial alerts and two a year for extended alerts.
  • You are reminded that not all credit reports online are entirely free. Some of them are offered on a trial basis for which you may eventually have to pay. The payment usually comes when you want to continue receiving alerts when there has been chances made in your records.

FCRA: Frequently Asked Questions about Identity Theft and Free Credit Reports

Identity theft is a serious matter and regular monitoring by way of a free credit report is one way to combat this problem. The frequently asked questions covered here will educate you more on how to use a free credit report and will help you understand your rights and responsibilities as indicated by the Fair Crediting Report Act (FCRA).

What is identify theft?

This may seem like a basic question, but since not everyone has been a consumer for very long they may need to really know what exactly is identity theft. This is the act of stealing someone’s photo I.D., birth certificate, social security number, credit card number, school records, driver’s license number, or even credit history in order to impersonate someone else.

Why would someone steal someone else’s identity?

Usually they may do it in order to obtain something they otherwise could not. For instance, someone might get into a school because they represent themselves by names on stolen school records. Someone may have obtained a car loan by using someone else’s social security number. The most common reason why people steal someone’s identity is to make online purchases.

How can theft of personal records be prevented?

Whenever possible, please make sure you shred all personal documents that might have vital information on it such as birth date, social security number, or driver’s license number on it. You can also have your financial history monitored by requesting a free credit report instantly online.

What is a fraud alert?

This is a procedure used to protect a person who has had their personal information stolen for some financial purpose. This lets the credit reporting agencies know that someone may be using your financial information without your permission.

How can I get a free credit report?

All you need to do is sign up with a service online that you can trust. You are allowed one copy of all three nationwide credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion) if you have received an initial fraud alert. You can also receive additional copies (up to two per year) in case an extended alert is placed.

How many free credit reports am I allowed to have per year?

It depends upon how many fraud alerts you have on your file, or what type. For the initial fraud alert you are allowed one copy every 12 months, and then for the extended fraud alert you are going to be allowed two per every 12 months.

Identity Theft Issues: Your Rights as a Consumer

When it comes to identity theft and your rights as a consumer, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is part of what protects you. This will help you in the event someone has made an unauthorized transaction from a bank account or credit card, or has made an unauthorized address change.

This is a list of some of your rights as a consumer pertaining to identity theft:

You have the right to place a fraud alert on your credit records. If you let one credit agency know that you may have been defrauded automatically, the other two major financial bureaus will be informed. All you have to do is place a call with Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion.

You are entitled up to two copies of your credit report per 12 months. You receive one if you have made an initial fraud alert, while you get two of you have place an extended fraud alert on your files. The initial fraud alert stays in your file for at least 90 days, and the extended alert stays on your file for seven years.

If a collection agency is attempting to collect a debt, you have the right to request information from that company. They are required to provide you with certain types of information. For instance, you are entitled to know the name of the creditor as well as the amount of debt.

You have the right to seek any information related to fraudulent transactions made on your account. You must be allowed by businesses or creditors to see any applications and records used by an identity thief, and you are required to be granted this as long as you ask for these in writing.

You have the right to have any information in your financial records blocked if it has resulted from identity theft. For instance, this may be necessary if a person who has stolen your personal data has run up bills in your name and has not paid them. That could reflect negatively on you, but you can have it blocked. This requires proof of identity as well as an identity theft report.

Businesses can also be prevented from reporting you to credit agencies if you can prove the financial transactions not paid were unauthorized. If you can proved that said outstanding balances are a result of identity theft, you can stop your personal financial reputation from being ruined.

This of course is not an exhaustive list of your rights. More about this will be provided in later posts, and you can read some from previous posts to gain more knowledge about this.