Does Opting Out of Credit Card Offers Improve Credit Scores?

August 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

opt out

Ask the Expert: Does Opting Out of Credit Card Offers Improve Credit Scores?

September 16, 2013 by John Ulzheimer

The world of consumer credit is loaded with myths, some more stubborn to debunk than others. Credit scores are used by employers, you build credit faster by carrying credit card balances, credit scores reward you for being in debt, opting out will improve your credit scores.  None of these things are actually true and it’s the last myth that I’ll address today.

What is opting out?

Today when you get home from work or school and check your mail you’ll likely find one or more credit card offers from credit card issuers. Those offers are likely of the “preapproved” variety, which means the credit card issuer has actually determined that they are willing to offer you a credit card even though you never asked for one.

The credit card issuer purchased your name, along with many others, from one of the credit reporting agencies through a process called “prescreening.”  Prescreening is the process whereby the card issuer gives the credit bureau a list of criteria and wants a list of consumer names and addresses that meet that criteria.

So, for example, I might ask one of the credit bureaus to provide me with list of 1,000,000 names and addresses belonging to consumers who live in the metro Atlanta area who have VantageScore credit scores above 725, don’t have any late payments in the past 24 months, and don’t have more than $10,000 of credit card debt. This is called “selection criteria.” Of course, the credit bureaus have to tap into their credit file database in order determine who meets this criteria.

If the credit card issuer acquires your name and address using this method then they have to make you what’s referred to as a “firm offer of credit or insurance.” This is normally done by sending you a credit card offer in the mail saying that you’ve been pre-approved for some amount of credit. All of this will result in a “promotional” inquiry being posted on your credit report.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives consumers the ability to prevent the credit bureaus from selling their names to lenders through a process called “Opting Out.” You can do this for free at www.optoutprescreen.com.  You can opt out forever or for a shorter amount of time. After a few months you’ll stop getting preapproved credit card offers in the mail.

The opting out myth

Some people suggest that you will improve your credit scores by opting out. The problem is that it’s not true. Opting out has no impact, at all, on your credit scores.

The only direct influence opting out has on your credit reports is to prevent new promotional inquiries from being added. But, promotional inquiries are of the “soft” variety and they have no impact on your credit scores anyway so preventing them doesn’t do anything for your scores.

Advantages to opting out

That certainly doesn’t mean there’s no value to opting out. You’ll certainly reduce or fully eliminate credit card offers, which means less mail to throw away or shred. And, because those credit card offers can be used by credit card fraudsters to open new cards in your name opting out can help to minimize your risk of credit card identity theft. But, that’s where the value ends.

Original article here: http://www.creditsesame.com/blog/ask-the-expert-does-opting-out-of-credit-card-offers-improve-credit-scores/

Why credit bureaus fail to fix errors

August 25, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Trying to fix a mistake in your credit report by providing a detailed set of documents to credit bureaus could be a waste of time.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in a report released (in 2013), suggested that the three major credit-reporting firms–Equifax Inc. EFX -0.69%  , TransUnion LLC UK:EXPN +1.60%  and Experian PLC –may not be giving adequate consideration to information submitted by consumers disputing their credit reports.

Federal law requires credit-reporting firms to send suppliers of consumer data — including credit-card companies, banks and collection agencies — notice that includes “all relevant information” supplied by the consumer.

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But rather than pass along documents, the industry uses a computerized coding system to describe the complaint. The big three credit-reporting firms “generally do not forward documentation that consumers submit with mailed disputes or provide a mechanism for consumers to forward supporting documents when filing disputes online or via phone,” the report said. See the full report.

For example, if a consumer has evidence that a debt has been paid off, the credit bureau may not pass along that information to his or her credit-card company or a debt collector.

Norm Magnuson, a spokesman for the Consumer Data Industry Association, which represents credit-reporting firms, said the industry’s system is adequate and handles a huge volume of complaints quickly and efficiently.

“The lenders are getting all the information they need to resolve the dispute in a timely manner,” he said.

An industry-funded study from last year that found that 95% of consumers were satisfied with the dispute-resolution process, Magnuson said. Representatives of Equifax, TransUnion and Experian either declined to comment or couldn’t be reached for comment.

The report didn’t come to any conclusions about whether the credit bureaus are out of compliance with this piece of the law.

The consumer bureau found that credit-reporting firms resolve 15% of complains on their own, passing along 85% to the financial institutions that provide reports on consumer activities, known in the industry as “data furnishers.”

Credit reports are used by lenders to evaluate potential borrowers for home loans, auto loans and credit cards. Earlier this year, the consumer bureau began overseeing the industry, and plans to evaluate whether the firms are providing accurate consumer information, handling consumer disputes appropriately and preventing fraud.

The consumer bureau’s report “sheds light on a process that’s tilted against the consumer,” said John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com, a credit-monitoring site.

The CFPB report also found that fewer than one in five consumers get copies of their credit report every year.

By Alan Zibel http://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-credit-bureaus-fail-to-fix-errors-2012-12-13

6 More Credit Myths Debunked

August 22, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

 

6 More Credit Myths Debunked

I know what you’re thinking, didn’t you already send out an article like this? Yes, I did. But this list is different. Here are 6 new Myths that are uncovered for you:

Myth #1: FICO, the company, calculates your FICO scores
In order for your FICO score, or any of your credit scores, to be calculated two things have to be married; your credit report and a scoring model. FICO, the company, does not maintain your credit reports. As such, FICO cannot calculate your FICO scores. The FICO scoring software is installed at Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This gives the credit reporting agencies the two things needed to calculate a FICO score. That means your FICO scores are calculated and delivered to lenders by the credit bureaus.

Myth #2: The credit bureaus grant or deny credit applications
Believe it or not, this is a pretty common myth. It’s so common that Federal law requires lenders who have denied your credit application to communicate with you that the credit bureaus had nothing to do with their decision. The credit bureaus simply provide lenders with your credit reports and credit scores. That’s where their involvement with the loan approval (or denial) process ends. If you’ve been denied, it was the lender that denied you. You can plug FICO into this myth as well, as they also have nothing to do with the approval or denial process.

Myth #3: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are credit rating agencies
These companies are legally defined as “Consumer Reporting Agencies” and more commonly referred to as credit bureaus or credit reporting agencies. Credit rating agencies are companies like Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s or Fitch Ratings. They’re the guys who assign letter grades to certain types of debt obligations. Sometimes, FICO gets lumped in with the credit bureaus and the incorrect designation of a credit rating agency.

Myth #4: Credit reports and credit scores are the same thing
This myth is so prevalent that it has lead to the most common misunderstanding relative to credit scores, which is that they’re used for employment screening. Think of credit reports as a car and credit scores as the stereo upgrade that doesn’t come standard with the car. A credit score is a product sold along with credit reports, just not to employers. The interchangeable use of the terms is improper.

Myth #5: FICO is a credit reporting agency
FICO is a lot of things, but none of those things is a credit reporting agency. The credit reporting agencies gather, maintain, and sell credit-related information to lenders, insurance companies, consumers and other parties. FICO does not have a credit file database. They’re an analytics company.

Myth #6: A charge card and a credit card are the same thing
The only thing similar between charge cards and credit cards is that they’re both made of plastic and you can buy stuff with them. A credit card allows you to roll or “revolve” a portion of your existing balance to the next month, a process that will result in the assessment of interest. A charge card is a “pay in full” product, in that you have to pay off the balance, in full, every month.
Charge cards almost always have annual fees, which help the issuer to make money in the absence of interest. Credit cards generally rely on interest and fees for their financial contribution to the issuer’s bottom line. Charge cards are not nearly as common as credit cards but they’re a pretty decent option if you want the convenience of plastic without the possibility of getting deep into debt.

By; John Ulzheimer is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

Effective Credit Report Repair Tips

August 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

 

Credit repair, done right, can do wonders for your credit report and your scores too! Here are a few tricks of the credit repair trade that will really make your scores move fast. Put them to work individually, or all at once, depending on your own needs, and watch the magic happen.

1) Open Accounts Right Now!!!
The FICO scoring model will give you bonus points for opening new accounts after a period of bad credit. It is all in the timing. Those old cards that survived the tough times are still worth something, but when it comes to credit repair FICO wants you to prove that you still have what it takes to get back in the swing of borrowing money. If your credit is crummy, secured credit cards are ideal. Small is good! Open now, pay on time, keep your balances low, and your scores may rise over 100 points in the next six months.

2) The Balance-Limit Connection
This credit repair tip is just as urgent for those opening new accounts today as it is for those managing already well seasoned revolving accounts. A little change in your balances can send your credit scores flying or diving. Have you maxed out a card lately and then checked out your scores? This is a fairly recent FICO tweak which can work for or against you. Try to use less than 30 percent of your limit for the best result.

3) Take a Look!
Have you seen you credit report lately? If not, why not??? There may be errors lurking and a simple dispute or challenge to the credit bureaus may be all it will take to get your scores back on track. Not sure how to check your report or how to dispute? Contact a professional right away. Good luck!

By Cesar Marrufo
ELITE FINANCIAL, LLC.com

Consumer Protection Through Education.

What to do if your credit card has been compromised

August 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Here is some sound advice on what to do if you feel your credit card has been tampered with. Recent security breach teaches us all a lesson.

What Does the Credit Card Company Breach Mean for You?: MyFoxATLANTA.com

New to the U.S? Here are credit building options, and hurdles…

August 8, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

New to the US? How can you build credit?

Dear Credit Card Adviser,
My son and his family recently moved to the U.S. after living abroad for 11 years. His wife does not have a Social Security number. Can she qualify for a credit card? Are there other actions she can take to boost her credit history?
– M.

Dear M.,
This is a trickier question than it seems, with many parts. Let’s start with your son’s wife, or your daughter-in-law, and discuss how to get her a credit card.

Depending on the creditor, she may or may not need a Social Security number to apply for a credit card. Capital One and Chase require this number on their credit card applications. Discover and Bank of America accept Social Security numbers, but they also will take a taxpayer identification number issued by the Internal Revenue Service.

American Express accepts several forms of identification: Social Security, taxpayer ID, a foreign driver’s license or a foreign-issued passport. Citi doesn’t require a Social Security number, but applicants who don’t have one may be asked to show a government-issued ID at the closest Citi bank branch.

Your daughter-in-law also can be added as an authorized user on many credit cards without an SSN.

Now, let’s look at her credit history. Unfortunately, your daughter-in-law’s foreign credit history can’t be transferred to the U.S. But she can start building one here even though she doesn’t have a Social Security number. It’s best to have one, though, to ensure her credit information is recorded accurately, says Maxine Sweet, vice president of public education at Experian.

“Name and current address are the minimum requirement, but we strongly encourage the lender to provide the SSN, date of birth and previous address if it was within the last two years,” she says. “That additional information can be very important in helping us match the account to the correct consumer.”

TransUnion also builds credit histories on individuals without a Social Security number. Equifax didn’t respond to emails asking about their minimum identification requirements for a credit report.

Getting a Social Security number isn’t easy. Generally, only immigrants OK’d to work in the country by the Department of Homeland Security qualify for an SSN, according to the Social Security Administration website. There are exceptions, so contact the agency for more information.

Now, here’s a potential problem you probably didn’t anticipate: Your son may have a hard time getting a credit card, too. If your son didn’t maintain any open or active U.S.-based credit — such as a mortgage, credit card or other loan — while he was abroad, a lender probably won’t be able to pull his credit score. He may not even have a U.S. credit file anymore.

A U.S. credit report from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion is based on payment history on mortgages, car loans, student loans, personal loans, credit cards and other loans he got here. If he doesn’t have any activity on these types of accounts in the past year or so, his credit report has gone stale, says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com.

“At that point, the credit report will cease to be scoreable under any credit score criteria,” he explains. Credit scoring models need recent activity to calculate a credit score. No activity, no credit score. No credit score, no new credit in most cases.

That’s not all. The credit reporting agencies don’t maintain credit files indefinitely. By law, negative credit information must fall off credit reports after seven years. Bankruptcies disappear after 10 years. Sounds good, right? But Ulzheimer says credit reporting agencies will eventually drop the good stuff, too. After 11 years, your son’s credit history may have vanished.

Your son should see if he has a credit report. If he does, he should give it a thorough read and make sure there aren’t any errors. He can pull his credit reports from each of the bureaus for free once every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com. If he finds he has little or no credit history, he will need to start building credit again the same way a young adult does: through a secured credit card or as an authorized user.

Secured credit cards require an upfront deposit to act as collateral against the line of credit. The deposit equals the credit limit, and it’s placed in a money market account or certificate of deposit while the account is open. Typical deposits run between $300 and $500. The problem is that you need at least six months’ worth of activity on the card before a FICO credit score — the most widely used score out there — can be created.

This is where you, as a parent, can help out, if you have good credit history. Adding your son (and daughter-in-law) as an authorized user on a credit card (or two) will immediately populate his credit file with the card’s payment history. That means he’ll have a calculable credit score, too. He’ll be able to apply for credit in his own name and build from there. Good luck to the whole family!

By Janna Herron | Bankrate.com 

What determines your credit score?

August 5, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

FICO Scores are calculated from a wide variety of different credit data in your credit report. This data can be grouped into five categories as outlined below. The percentages reflect how important each of the categories is in determining your score. These percentages are based on the importance of the five categories for the general population. The importance of these categories may vary for particular groups – for example, people who have not been using credit long might find less importance on amounts owed and greater importance on payment history. Paying your bills on time and paying down account balances are the top two factors that can help or hurt your credit score regardless of who you are and what your credit situation is! Here’s a breakdown of how your credit score is calculated:

• 10 % Types of Credit Used
• 10% New Credit
• 15% Length of Credit History
• 30% Amounts Owed
• 35% Payment History

Knowing and more importantly understanding these figures can help a great amount towards getting your credit score back on track. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Will a wage garnishment affect your credit score?

July 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Will a wage garnishment affect your credit score?

A wage garnishment, which results after a court order says a lender can obtain money a borrower owes by going through the borrower’s employer, won’t show up on your credit report and therefore, won’t impact your credit score.

“Garnishments do not have a direct impact on your credit scores because they are not picked up by the credit bureaus and placed on credit files,” John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for SmartCredit.com, tells MainStreet.

An Experian spokesperson also confirmed with MainStreet that the credit bureau does not receive information about wage garnishments.

“Although garnishment proceedings are a matter of public court record, they are not reported on Equifax consumer credit files,” a spokesperson from Equifax also told MainStreet.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t send up a red flag to lenders that you can’t pay back your debts and shouldn’t qualify for a loan.

“Garnishments aren’t a secret to prospective lenders,” Ulzheimer says. “Applications for things like mortgages will usually ask for obligations and liabilities, and you’ll have to disclose the fact that your wages are being garnished.”

http://www.mainstreet.com/article/moneyinvesting/credit/debt/credit-qa-will-wage-garnishment-affect-my-score

By Jeanine Skowronski

Credit 101 Step 2 – Credit Scores

July 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 


This is part 2 in a series of videos on basics of credit, that is Credit 101. What is a credit score? How do we explain the algorithm that makes up a credit score or FICO score? This is something that should be taught in high school. A brief explanation of credit scores. Interview between Adam Villaneda and Cesar Marrufo. Elite Financial, LLC credit repair in Yucaipa, California (Moreno Valley). Learn how to fix your bad credit report and position yourself to purchase a home.

Identity Crisis… What to Do If Your Identity is Stolen

July 22, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Recently, we have received information from our clients about a data breach in the County of San Bernardino, State of California. Here are 4 steps to take if you feel you identity information has been breached…Direct from the FTC Website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Identity Crisis… What to Do If Your Identity is Stolen

“I don’t remember opening that credit card account. And I certainly didn’t buy those items I’m being billed for.”

Maybe you never opened that account, but someone else did…someone who used your name and personal information to commit fraud. When an imposter co-opts your name, your Social Security number (SSN), your credit card number, or some other piece of your personal information for their use – in short, when someone appropriates your personal information without your knowledge – it’s a crime.

The biggest problem? You may not know your identity’s been stolen until you notice that something’s amiss: you may get bills for a credit card account you never opened; your credit report may include debts you never knew you had; a billing cycle may pass without your receiving a statement; or you may see charges on your bills that you didn’t sign for, didn’t authorize, and don’t know anything about.

First Things First

If you’re a victim of identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, recommends that you take the following four steps as soon as possible, and keep records of your conversations and copies of all correspondence.

1. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, and review your reports.

Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. Contact the toll-free fraud number of any of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies to place a fraud alert on your credit report. You need to contact only one of the three companies to place an alert. The company you call is required to contact the other two, which will then place an alert on their versions of your report.

  • TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
  • Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374- 0241
  • Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013

Once you place the fraud alert on your file, you’re entitled to order free copies of your credit reports; if you ask, only the last four digits of your SSN will appear on your credit reports. Once you get your credit reports, review them carefully. Look for inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted; accounts you didn’t open; and debts on your accounts that you can’t explain. Check that information like your SSN, address(es), and name or initials are correct. If you find fraudulent or inaccurate information, get it removed. See the FTC’s comprehensive identity theft recovery guide, Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft, at www.ftc.gov/idtheft to learn how. Continue to check your credit reports periodically, especially for the first year after you discover the identity theft, to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.

Fraud Alerts

There are two types of fraud alerts: an initial alert and an extended alert.

n An initial alert stays on your credit report for at least 90 days. You may ask that an initial fraud alert be placed on your credit report if you suspect you have been, or are about to be, a victim of identity theft.

  • An initial alert is appropriate if your wallet has been stolen or if you’ve been taken in by a “phishing” scam. Phishing occurs when scam artists steal personal information from you by sending email that claims to be from a legitimate company and says you have a problem with your account. When you place an initial fraud alert on your credit report, you’re entitled to one free credit report from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies.
  • An extended alert stays on your credit report for seven years. You can have an extended alert placed on your credit report if you’ve been a victim of identity theft and you provide the consumer reporting company with an “identity theft report.” When you place an extended alert on your credit report, you’re entitled to two free credit reports within twelve months, after placing the alert, from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies. In addition, the consumer reporting companies will remove your name from marketing lists for prescreened credit offers for five years unless you ask them to put your name back on the list before then.

To place either of these alerts on your credit report, or to have them removed, you will be required to provide appropriate proof of your identity, which may include your SSN, name, address, and other personal information the consumer reporting company requests.

When a business sees the alert on your credit report, they must verify your identity before issuing you credit. As part of this verification process, the business may try to contact you directly. This may cause some delays if you’re trying to obtain credit. To compensate for possible delays, you may wish to include a cell phone number, where you can be reached easily, in your alert. Remember to keep all contact information in your alert current.

The Identity Theft Report

An identity theft report may have two parts:

Part One is a copy of a report filed with a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency like your local police department, your State Attorney General, the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, the FTC, or the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. When you file a report, provide as much information as you can about the crime, including anything you know about the dates of the identity theft, the fraudulent accounts opened, and the alleged identity thief.

Part Two of an identity theft report depends on the policies of the consumer reporting company and the information provider (the business that sent the information to the consumer reporting company). They may ask you to provide information or documentation to verify your identity theft in addition to that included in the law enforcement report. They must make their request within 15 days of receiving your law enforcement report, or, if you already have an extended fraud alert on your credit report, the date you submit your request to the credit reporting company for information blocking. The consumer reporting company and the information provider then have 15 more days to work with you to make sure your identity theft report contains everything they need. They are entitled to take five days to review any information you give them. For example, if you give them information 11 days after they request it, they do not have to make a final decision until 16 days after they asked you for that information. If you give them any information after the 15-day deadline, they can reject your identity theft report as incomplete, and you will have to resubmit it with the correct information.

Most federal and state agencies and some local police departments offer only “automated” reports – a report that does not require a face-to-face meeting with a law enforcement officer. Automated reports may be submitted online, or by telephone or mail. If you have a choice, do not use an automated report. The reason? It’s more difficult for the consumer reporting company or information provider to verify the information. Unless you are asking a consumer reporting company to place an extended fraud alert on your credit report, you probably will have to provide additional information or documentation if you use an automated report.

2. Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.

Call and speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each company. Follow up in writing, and include copies (NOT originals) of supporting documents. It’s important to notify credit card companies and banks in writing. Send your letters by certified mail, and request a return receipt so you can document what the company received and when. Keep a file of your correspondence and enclosures.

When you open new accounts, use new Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) and passwords. Avoid using easily available information like your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your SSN or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers.

If the identity thief has made charges or debits to your accounts, or to fraudulently opened accounts, ask the company for the forms to dispute those transactions. Also request the transaction records relating to the identity theft, such as the fraudulent credit application.

Once you have resolved your identity theft dispute with the company, ask for a letter stating that the company has closed the disputed accounts and has discharged the fraudulent debts. This letter can help you if errors relating to this account reappear on your credit report or you are contacted again about the fraudulent debt.

3. File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.

Then, get a copy of the police report or at the very least, the number of the report. It can help you deal with creditors who need proof of the crime. If the police are reluctant to take your report, ask to file a “Miscellaneous Incidents” report, or try another jurisdiction, like your state police. You also can check with your state Attorney General’s office to find out if state law requires the police to take reports for identity theft. Check the Blue Pages of your telephone directory for the phone number or check www.naag.org for a list of state Attorneys General.

4. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide important information that can help law enforcement officials across the nation track down identity thieves and stop them. The FTC can refer victims’ complaints to other government agencies and companies for further action, as well as investigate companies for violations of laws the agency enforces.

You can file a complaint online at www.ftc.gov/idtheft, by phone at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653- 4261, or by mail: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580. Be sure to call the Hotline to update your complaint if you have any additional information or problems.

Next, Take Control

Although identity thieves can wreak havoc on your personal finances, there are some things you can do to take control of the situation. Here’s how to handle some of the most common forms of identity theft.

If an identity thief has stolen your mail for access to new credit cards, bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, and tax information or falsified change-of-address forms, (s)he has committed a crime. Report it to your local postal inspector.

If you discover that an identity thief has changed the billing address on an existing credit card account, close the account. When you open a new account, ask that a password be used before any inquiries or changes can be made on the account. Avoid using easily available information like your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your SSN or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers. Avoid the same information and numbers when you create a Personal Identification Number (PIN).

If you have reason to believe that an identity thief has accessed your bank accounts, checking account, or used your ATM card, close the accounts immediately. When you open new accounts, insist on password-only access. If your checks have been stolen or misused, stop payment. If your ATM card has been lost, stolen, or otherwise compromised, cancel the card and get another with a new PIN.

If an identity thief has established new phone or wireless service in your name and is making unauthorized calls that appear to come from – and are billed to – your cellular phone, or is using your calling card and PIN, contact your service provider immediately to cancel the account and calling card. Get new accounts and new PINs.

If it appears that someone is using your SSN when applying for a job, get in touch with the Social Security Administration to verify the accuracy of your reported earnings and that your name is reported correctly. Call 1-800-772-1213 to check your Social Security Statement.

If you suspect that your name or SSN is being used by an identity thief to get a driver’s license, report it to your Department of Motor Vehicles. Also, if your state uses your SSN as your driver’s license number, ask to substitute another number.

Staying Alert

Once resolved, most cases of identity theft stay resolved. But occasionally, some victims have recurring problems. To stay on top of the situation, continue to monitor your credit reports and read your financial account statements promptly and carefully. You may want to review your credit reports once every three months in the first year of the theft, and once a year thereafter. Stay alert for other signs of identity theft, like:

  • failing to receive bills or other mail. Follow up with creditors if your bills don’t arrive on time. A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks.
  • receiving credit cards that you didn’t apply for.
  • being denied credit, or being offered less favorable credit terms, like a high interest rate, for no apparent reason.
  • getting calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services you didn’t buy.

Get Your Credit Report

Order a copy of your credit report from the three nationwide consumer reporting companies every year to check on their accuracy and whether they include only those debts and loans you’ve incurred. This could be very important if you’re considering a major purchase, such as a house or a car.

An amendment to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the major nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit reports, at your request, once every 12 months.

To order your free annual report from one or all of the nationwide consumer reporting companies, visit www.annualcreditreport.com, call toll-free 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. The form is at the back of this brochure; or you can print it from ftc.gov/credit. Do not contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually. They provide free annual credit reports only through www.annualcreditreport.com, 1-877-322-8228, and Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

For more information, see Your Access to Free Credit Reports at ftc.gov/credit. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Chart Your Course of Action

The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Watch a video, How to File a Complaint, at ftc.gov/video to learn more. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.