It’s a New Year! Plan to keep tabs on your credit

By Nancy Schuster
Frontier Extension District Agent

Happy New Year! It’s time to make plans to improve ourselves: Change eating habits, increase physical activity habits, and do a better job with our spending habits, etc. I want to encourage you to make plans in 2016 to ask for your free credit report from the safe government site once a quarter.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. You have the choice to do this by phone, online, or even by mail.

A credit report includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued or have filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide credit reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home. Many times a credit report can show a case of identity theft before the person knows the theft has happened. A good credit report can get you a lower interest rate on a loan, a poor credit report can keep you from renting and even keep you from getting a land line phone. A credit report affects your life in a big way; you need to know what is in your credit report.

foodforthoughtTo order your free credit report, visit annualcreditreport.com or call free at 877-322-8228. You can also complete the http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0093-annual-report-request-form.pdf and mail to Annual Credit Report Request Service, PO Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Do not contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies individually. They are providing free annual credit reports only through The Fair Credit Reporting Act.

You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies at the same time, or you can order your report one at a time from each of the companies. The law allows you to order one free copy of your report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies every 12 months.

Only one website is authorized to fill orders for the free annual credit report you are entitled to under law – annualcreditreport.com. Other websites that claim to offer free credit reports, free credit scores or free credit monitoring are not part of the legally mandated free annual credit report program. In some cases, the “free” product comes with strings attached. For example, some sites sign you up for a supposedly “free” service that converts to one you have to pay for after a trial period. If you don’t cancel during the trial period, you may be unwittingly agreeing to let the company start charging fees to your credit card.

Some imposter sites use terms like “free report” in their names; others have URLs that purposely misspell annualcreditreport.com in the hope that you will mistype the name of the official site. Some of these imposter sites direct you to other sites that try to sell you something or collect your personal information.

Annualcreditreport.com and the nationwide credit reporting companies will not send you an email asking for your personal information. If you get an email, see a pop-up ad, or get a phone call from someone claiming to be from annualcreditreport.com or any of the three nationwide credit reporting companies, do not reply or click on any link in the message. It’s probably a scam. Forward any such email to the FTC at [email protected].

To receive your free credit report you will need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. If you have moved in the last two years, you may have to provide your previous address. To maintain the security of your file, each nationwide credit reporting company may ask you for some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment. Each company may ask you for different information because the information each has in your file may come from different sources.

The Federal Trade Commission has an extensive website with consumer information, ranging from money and credit, homes and mortgages, health and fitness, job searching and making money, to privacy and identity. The website has a scam alert section for consumers. I value the Take Action section because it includes how to make a consumer complaint, how to register for the no-call list, how to report theft and robbery, how to get your SAFE free credit report, and a wealth of free to order publications that cover a broad range of topics. The Federal Trade Commission also has a blog that you can receive by email; I find it extremely helpful to learn about scams and other important consumer information. The Federal Trade Commission’s website is http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/.

Graphic: Federal Trade Commission.


schustersmNancy Schuster is a Frontier Extension District family and consumer science agent whose responsibilities include providing information about food safety, nutrition, food science and food preparation. She is based in the Garnett office of the Frontier Extension District and can be reached at 785-448-6826 or email [email protected].

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