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Check Your Free Credit Report Now

When is the last time you checked your credit report? If it has been more than a year, you can get a free one. The issue is, however, is how to really understand it. Here’s some information about obtaining and reading your credit report.

Obtaining Your Free Credit Report

Based on US law, everyone is entitled to look at their credit report from all three major credit reporting agencies. If you want to look at more than that, you can pay a fee. This law dates back to 2003, and all three major bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, must allow people to access their credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com. Keep in mind, you won’t see your credit score through the free reports. You’d have to pay to see your scores.

When you go to this site, you can fill out a form that requires a number of items. You have to supply your name and address, your date of birth, and your Social Security number. Once entering that information, you can submit it, and you will be taken to a new page.

The next page allows you to choose which credit reporting company you want a report from. There are checkboxes next to the name of these companies. You can select all three, only two, or a single credit reporting bureau. There are some cases where you might want to access all three reports at once, but there are also instances where you might only want to access one. This is further explained on the website.

Before you can access your credit report, you have to verify your identity. You should get a page of questions on the screen about a variety of things. It might include credit accounts, loan terms, or even what cars have been purchased by you. The only way to access your report is to answer these questions correctly.

Since this website is integrated with the sites of the credit bureaus, once you gain access, you will see how easy it is to switch from one report to the next. Now, you only get one free report each year, but it is possible to check reports again, if necessary. You just have to pay a fee of about $20 to view them.

Understanding Your Credit Report

Credit reports are not easy to understand. The top of your report contains information such as your name, address, employment information, and addresses. Next, you will see public records, such as collection accounts and judgements.

Next, you will see a list of all credit accounts you have in good standing. Revolving accounts are listed next, and then you will see all requests to view your credit report. Finally, you will see any personal statements that you have placed on your credit report. Generally, this is done if you have been a victim of identity theft.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

Get a Credit Freeze NOW Before it’s Too Late!

What is a credit freeze? It’s an action you take to lock down your credit report. A lender can’t see your score, which means your Social Security number and credit rating is useless to them. In other words, they can’t tell if you are risky or not.

When an identity thief can access your ID aka Social Security number, they can also create credit in your name. However, if your credit file is frozen, the bad guys can’t access it any longer. With a credit freeze, your credit file is inaccessible.

To get access to your frozen credit, when you need to new line of credit, you have to use a credit bureau issued  PIN to unfreeze it. It’s easy. Freezing a credit report doesn’t affect any existing lines of credit, and the process is free for everyone including kids.

When is it a Good Idea to Freeze Your Credit?

If you are a person who has had their identity stolen, you should freeze your credit. If you have a Social Security number you are a target. If you breathe you are a potential victim. Make your SSN useless to the thief by freezing your credit

What You Should Know Before Freezing Your Credit

Before you freeze your credit, there isn’t much to know. You should simply do it. Your credit should always be frozen from all transactions, and retailers, banks, and lenders have spent many millions trying to stop it. Why? Because this stops them from instantly approving a credit line. They are not concerned about your identity, only their bottom line.

What does it Cost to Freeze your Credit?

Its free. Just freeze your credit already and stop asking so many questions!

Is Freezing Your Credit Inconvenient?

Freezing your credit is not an inconvenience. It only takes a couple of minutes to freeze and unfreeze your credit file. Of course, you need to unfreeze before getting approved for credit. That simply means prior to initiating an application for credit, you need to spend 5 minutes administrating the thaw. This boils down to a simple change in the current process which makes you more secure. Think of a freeze as putting on your seatbelt. It’s just something you have to do.

Does a Credit Freeze Harm Your Credit?

Nope. It doesn’t affect your credit score at all. And exiting creditors can still do “soft” checks on your credit.

Doesn’t a Fraud Alert Do the Same Thing?

A fraud alert only lasts for a year, and the bad guys can still access your credit file and apply for new credit. This informs a creditor that you might have had your ID stolen, but they can still, and do, issue credit. At their best, fraud alerts simply notify lenders that something might be going on with your identity. It’s really just a false sense of security.

Where You Can Go to Freeze Your Credit:

To freeze your credit with Equifax, click here.

To freeze your credit with Experian, click here.

To freeze your credit with Trans Union, click here.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

How long does Information stay on Credit Reports?

If you are concerned how long any negative information will remain on your credit report, it takes seven years from the Date of the Last Activity (DLA) before the item is deleted from your records (and seven to 10 years for bankruptcies). This is a very common question posed to credit reporting agencies.

Credit reporting agencies get your information (bad or good) from lenders and collection agencies. The reporting agencies simply compile the information that comes to them.

Consumer Statements

The credit report may contain not-so-appealing information about a dispute that you were involved in that did not see a resolution. For no fee, you can file a statement with the credit reporting agency, summarizing the situation in a brief fashion. At any rate, you can make a request for the dispute information to be removed from your record, and there is no fee or required timeline for this.

Collection Accounts

These stick around for seven years out from the first past-due date for the payment.

Judgments

From the date filed, it’s seven years.

Credit Accounts

These will stay on your record up to a decade from the DLA. If you fail to pay, it will be on your record for seven years from the first past-due date. So you’re looking at seven years for records of delinquent payments.

Inquiries

When entities like businesses get a copy of your credit file, this inquiry report stays on the record for one or two years. Another type of inquiry relates to promotional offers of credit lines; they’re gone in a year. Inquiries do not affect your credit score.

Tax Liens (Paid and Unpaid)

From the date these are paid, it’s seven years. However, unpaid ones are on the record forever.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

How to Remove Fraudulent Lines of Credit

You just learned you have a new credit card account by checking your credit or because a bill collector called you. Problem is that you don’t remember ever applying for it. You must find out what’s behind this new account and how it got there.

  • Call the corresponding phone number listed with the account seen on your credit report.
  • Begin the process for disputing the entire account.
  • Get the name (and employee ID number) of every person you speak to and a transaction or reference number for every phone call.
  • Speak to the fraud specialist for the issuer of this new account.
  • Maybe you did apply for it. If you didn’t, find out if there are any charges on it.
  • If the issue isn’t cleared up with one phone call, see what your options are to put a freeze on the account while things are being checked into.
  • Get your free credit reports from TransUnion, Equifax and Experian to see how this new account appears.
  • If you’re still in a quandary over this, put a fraud alert and security freeze on all three reports.

Taking Matters Further

  • If it’s fraud, file an ID theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. You’ll get an identity theft affidavit online; immediately print it because it can be viewed only once through the FTC’s system.
  • Next, bring the ID affidavit form to the police, plus other documents relevant to your case, and file a report. Don’t assume your problem is too trivial.

What if the credit card issuer is not helpful?

  • Send a certified letter requesting they freeze or even close the account.
  • Include with that letter a copy (not the originals) of the FTC affidavit and police report.
  • The letter should request written proof of the authorization for opening this account.
  • Another request: written statement absolving you from any responsibility towards charges on this mysterious account.
  • Did you know that the creditor has 30 days or less to send you a written summary of its investigation?

If you’ve been assured that the account will be removed, don’t just take their word; follow up to make sure this was done.

You should not be responsible for any debts incurred by this fraudulent account. Any negative notes on your credit report, related to this account, should be wiped clean.

What if after all that, the account still remains open and you feel the case was not handled properly? File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Hopefully you won’t have to hire an attorney, though that’s also a next step.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to TheBestCompanys.com discussing  identity theft prevention.

8 Tips to protect your Money – and your Identity – from Theft

When you hear the dictum, “You should protect yourself from identity theft,” do you equate this with pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with rocks up a hill? It would actually be more accurate to picture slicing into a fresh apple pie, because identity theft protection is as easy as pie. Check out the following things you should do—without breaking any sweat: http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-online-risks-sign-road-banner-image34668294

  1. Examine your credit card statements once a month to catch any unauthorized charges. Even a tiny charge should not be blown off, since often, thieves will start out small to “test the waters.” Once they get away with this, they’ll be surfing the big waves if you don’t pounce on them quickly.
  2. Buy a shredder. Don’t rely on tearing up documents with your hands, especially unopened envelopes. A shredder will blitz them to fragments that a “dumpster diver” won’t be able to piece together. Until you get a shredder, use scissors and snip up anything that has sensitive information on it.
  3. Put the names and phone numbers of your credit/debit cards on hardcopy so you’ll have a quick way to contact them should any become stolen.
  4. There are three major credit report bureaus: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. At least once a year review your credit reports with them, as they can reveal if, for instance, someone opened a credit card account in your name.
  5. If you ever lose your cell phone, anyone can obtain sensitive data you have stored in it—unless it’s password protected. And please, use a strong, long password, since the thief might be someone who knows you and is capable of sitting there trying all sorts of permutations with your beloved dog’s name, a la Duke1.
  6. Are a lot of your sensitive paperwork and documents in unlocked file cabinets that anyone can get into? The thief could be a visiting family member (yes, family members can be crooked), the cleaning lady, repairman, window guy, dishwasher installer, a visiting neighbor, you name it. A fireproof safe will protect these documents.
  7. All of your computers should have antivirus, antimalware and antispyware software, that’s regularly updated.
  8. Install a virtual private network to encrypt all free WiFi communications. Hostspot Shield is a good example.
  9. Put a freeze on your credit, at least if you don’t plan on applying for any credit lines or loans in the near future; you’ll be blocked until you unfreeze it, but so will thieves.

More on Credit Freezes

  • Freezing is free for ID theft victims; there’s a small charge for non-victims ($15 per credit bureau, which may be for all time, depending on your state’s policies).
  • “Thawing” the freeze (which takes five minutes) is free to victims and up to $5 for non-victims.
  • It will not affect your credit score.
  • It works because they block lenders from seeing your credit scores. So if someone gets your identity, they can’t open credit in your name because lenders need to see those scores.
  • You won’t be able to see your credit reports unless you have a PIN to access them.

Identity theft doesn’t have to be a scary nightmare. As long as consumers follow these basic tips and guidelines they can prevent many forms if identity theft.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

Stolen Social Security number? Don’t Worry!

Just when you think it was safe to believe your Social Security number can’t get stolen…news breaks of the Anthem data breach. Over 80,000,000 patient records were compromised, including SSNs and home addresses. Like a meteor striking the earth, a disastrous ripple effect is underway, with patients getting hit up with phishing e-mails.

1PIf you ever suspect your SSN has been stolen, some suggest contacting the IRS and Social Security Administration and notify them of your situation. The thief can do bad things with your number, but if you contact these agencies, can you really protect yourself from that? I’m not sure these agencies can really do anything based on the volume of fraud happening today.

So what should you do to guard against ID theft while you’re still ahead?

Your credit report should have a fraud alert placed on it. This way, lenders and creditors will be stricter about identifying you as the authentic applicant. Thus, a thief will probably flunk these extra steps. Contact either Equifax, Experian or Transunion and they’ll place the 90-day fraud alert. You can also ask for an extension. Consider re-establishing the fraud alert every 90 days. The fraud alert will net you a copy of your credit report. Examine it carefully.

Watch your credit like a hawk. If nothing happens during those 90 days, this doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. A thief may act after 90 days, or, just as a baseline good practice, you should still always monitor your credit. Self-monitoring your credit involves either buying your credit report as often as you’d like or getting it free, quarterly at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Credit freeze. A more secure measure is to freeze your credit, but this means you too can’t do anything like apply for a refinance on your house until it’s “thawed”. But if you don’t foresee needing to do that or open new lines of credit in the near future, then you’ll get more peace of mind with a credit freeze.

If an unforeseen need to apply for a loan surfaces, you can unfreeze your credit. Just keep good notes regarding the user/pass and web address to quickly thaw your credit. A credit freeze/thaw requires a one-time fee of $5-$15.00. Cheap and effective.

Identity theft protection. This is a no brainer. For $100-$300 annually for an individual or family of 4, your identity is being monitored 24/7 by professionals who will also restore your identity in the event of loss. Check with the companies Terms of Service and their features/benefits to determine what the will and will not protect against.

Be smart. Though some hackers are amazingly ingenious and subtle with their schemes, other tricks are so obvious that it’s astounding that anyone who’s smart enough to use a computer could fall for them.

A college degreed professional can be so caught up in the latest trash or tragic news about a very high profile celebrity that they could be lured right into the palm of a ruthless scammer: The bait is a link to an exclusive interview with the celebrity’s mother. Hah! Click the link, and you’ll become the mouse in a trap.

  • Never click links inside e-mails, even if it seems that the sender is from someone you know.
  • Don’t even bother opening e-mails with sensationalistic subject lines like “Exclusive Video of Bruce Jenner in Mini Skirt.”
  • When using various online accounts, see if they offer two-factor authentication; then use it.
  • Use different passwords for all of your accounts, and make them long and unique, not “123Kitty.”
  • Use antivirus and anti-malware and keep them updated; also use a firewall.
  • Shred all personal documents before putting them in the rubbish.

Never give out your SSN except for job applications, loan applications, credit card applications and other “big stuff.”

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention. Disclosures.

How to build up or rebuild your Credit

After taking all the necessary steps to Fixing a Credit Report after being hacked, it is then tome to rebuild your credit. Bad credit is bad credit no matter how it happens. No matter how responsible you are with your money, you won’t get a loan if there’s no evidence of this. The evidence comes from having credit. You need to show lenders you can be trusted.12D

  • Every time you apply for a credit card, this puts a dent in your credit score. In other words, it can negatively affect your scores especially if there are lots of credit checks in a short period of time. So apply with a lot of discretion; do you really need that extra charge card? Or is it worth it to continually cancel accounts and open new accounts while playing the interest/points game?
  • Get a major credit card. A charge card is an opportunity to show that you will pay back, on time, money that you “borrowed.” A debit card for this purpose is meaningless because it withdraws money from your account on the spot.
  • An option is a type of credit card that requires a security deposit. Payment of your bills will not come from this security deposit. But it looks good to a potential lender, making you seem more trustworthy.
  • Charge things like gas, food and other items, and/or put a monthly bill on the card for automatic payments such as your cable bill, then pay the card on time every single time—ideally the entire balance. This will create a record of your trustworthiness.
  • Charge no more than 50 percent of the card’s limit in any given month, even if you CAN pay the whole thing off every month. Exceeding 50 percent, some say, can adversely affect your credit score.
  • A rule of thumb is to charge only what you’d be able to pay in cold cash every month. Just because your card has a $5,000 limit doesn’t mean you should rack up $4,500 worth of purchases in one billing cycle.
  • Use the card every month; don’t let it go dormant, as this is not impressive to a lender. If you’re having a tough time remembering to charge things like new shoes, food, drug store items, etc., then set it up for automatic draft of a monthly service.
  • Even ONE late payment will screw things up. Remember, charge only what you’d be able to pay for in cash each month. If you can’t, don’t charge it.
  • If YOU check your credit report any time; it won’t dent your credit score. When lots of creditors check your credit, that can affect your scores.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to TheBestCompanys.com discussing  identity theft prevention. For Roberts FREE ebook text- SECURE Your@emailaddress -to 411247. Disclosures.

Fixing a Credit Report after being hacked

First off, how NOT to fix a hacked credit report: signing on with a service that promises to correct the problem in a jiffy—a “sounds too good to be true” advertisement. A company that claims they will 100% fix your bad credit by removing negative information from your credit report is a bit scammy. In fact, whatever a credit repair company CAN legally do, you yourself can do.

Tips to Know Ahead of Time3D

  • If a company takes action against you, you’re entitled to a free credit report if you request it within 60 days of being notified.
  • Experian, Equifax and TransUnion are required to provide you, free of charge, your credit report every year.
  • It’s free to question anything on your credit report.
  • Credit reporting agencies are required to investigate your disputes, if valid, within 30 days.

Credit Reporting Agency

  • Send the reporting company a document explaining your issues. Include copies of documents for evidence.
  • Your mailed packet (use certified mail) should include an itemized list of your disputes and associated details.
  • The agency will send your material to the entity that provided the information in question. This entity must investigate the issues, then provide feedback to the credit reporting agency, and that includes corrections in your report if it’s deemed that the suspicious information was, in fact, inaccurate.
  • You will then hear back from the reporting agency: an updated report (free) and the results in writing. The agency will send a copy of the revised report, at your request, to anyone in the previous 24 months who had received the erroneous one.

Creditors

  • Inform them in writing of your dispute.
  • Include copies of all evidencing documents.

Repairing errors and getting rid of accurate but negative information are not the same thing. Time heals wounds; you’ll need to let time (usually seven years) completely get rid of the bad stuff.

Should you decide to use a credit repair company, know that it’s against the law for them to lie about their services or charge you before they’ve done their job. By law they must provide a contract explaining your rights and their services, plus many other details including total cost.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to TheBestCompanys.com discussing  identity theft prevention. For Roberts FREE ebook text- SECURE Your@emailaddress -to 411247. Disclosures.

Everything you need to know about a Credit Freeze

A credit freeze locks down your credit report so lenders can’t see your scores, making your credit/SSN useless to them because they don’t know their risk level.

1SIf thieves get ahold of your ID, they can’t get credit in your name as long as your credit is frozen. Freezing your credit will seal your credit reports. You’ll need a PIN to access your credit to allow valid services to check your credit when needed. Freezing won’t affect existing credit lines and are free to victims of ID theft. Since 2008, the three big credit bureaus have allowed non-victims to freeze their credit for a small charge.

When is a credit freeze a good idea?

For anyone 18 and over who has a credit report and those under 18 whose identity is stolen and for whom a report is then generated by default.

What should I consider before ordering a credit freeze?

Nothing. Just do it. Credit should be frozen across the board, but banks/retailers/lenders have spent millions lobbying to prevent that, as it would eliminate instant credit, and these institutions say that it would “gum up” the system of lending.

What are the costs?

Free to $15.00 per credit bureau for life, depending on the deal your state attorney general made with the bureau back in 2008. Then free to $5.00 to thaw it each time you apply for new lines of credit.

Inconvenience: It requires planning large financial decisions and being responsible. So horrible. Otherwise it takes five minutes per bureau to temporarily thaw your credit prior to financing a new line of credit at an auto dealer, mobile phone provider, etc.

Can a credit freeze hurt your credit score?

NO.

How does a credit freeze differ from a fraud alert?

Fraud alerts are only 90 days, and they don’t freeze your credit; they only alert a lender that you may have had your identity stolen, but don’t stop the lender from issuing credit in any way.

Fraud alerts at best are “notifications” that something may have gone wrong with your identity, but only suggest the lender takes additional steps to contact you before establishing credit in your name. It’s a false sense of security.

Where to Freeze:

Equifax

https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp

Experian

https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html

Transunion

http://www.transunion.com/personal-credit/credit-disputes/credit-freezes.page

Just do it. NOW.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing  identity theft prevention. For Roberts FREE ebook text- SECURE Your@emailaddress -to 411247. Disclosures.