Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Free Credit Score

Everyone in the country should soon be able to get a FREE copy of his or her credit report from each of the credit reporting companies once every 12 months. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a brochure, Your Access to Free Credit Reports, explaining your rights and how to order a free annual credit report.
The free reports have been phased in during a nine-month period, starting on the West Coast last December 1, to the Midwest on March 1, to the South on June 1. Starting September 1, the free reports will be accessible to everybody, including those in CT, DE, ME, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, NC, PA, RI, VT, VA, WV, DC, PR, and all U.S. territories.
There’s a toll-free number to order the report: 877-322-8228, or complete the request form on the FTC site and mail it. The instructions read: "When you order, you need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. To verify your identity, you may need to provide some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment."

HOWEVER, an article in the August 2005 CONSUMER REPORTS states that credit bureaus sometimes try to sell this free information. If you have any trouble, contact the FTC by web or by calling 877-382-4357 (877-FTC-HELP).

Here are some other recommended tools if you think your credit has been compromised:
  • Put a fraud alert on your credit reports (companies should call you to verify your identity whenever they check your credit report with the intention of opening an account in your name or making any changes to an existing one.), at all three credit bureaus -- Equifax (800-525-6285), Experian (888-397-3742) and TransUnion (800-680-7289). And do so every 90 days.
  • Consider signing up for a credit monitoring service.
  • Tell your beneficiaries, since the Social Security numbers of the beneficiaries on your 401(k) account or life insurance policy might be compromised as well.
  • Change your bank account numbers.
  • Insist on identifiers other than your Social Security number, for health insurance ID, for instance.
  • Opt out of pre-approved credit offers by calling the Automated Credit Reporting Industry (888-567-8688).
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