How To Protect Your Good Name and Monitor Your
Credit At The Same Time!
As the world around us plunges head first into what is being coined as “The Global War On Terror”, our personal freedom and security is being threatened to the point of near hysteria. Post 9/11 America is a much different country than even just a few decades ago when I was a
a child. My mother used to TELL ME to go outside and play, with her one fear being I would pick the only rotten branch on the tree to swing on, while twenty feet above the ground. Today, with children of my own, I fear to let them out of my sight for any prolonged period of time, and playing outside is done with chalk in the driveway, or at the nearest park with plenty of supervision. Sad, but true.
As our world changes, we seem to lag behind just enough for the criminal populace to always stay one step ahead, and it is typically too late to curb the outcome of certain crimes when they are perpetrated against us. NOT SO when it comes to identity theft or credit card fraud, as you will soon discover.
Our porous borders not only allow people to enter our country illegally, they also allow criminals and terrorists an avenue in which to convey their particular choice of crimes against America. Although I feel that a fence may slow some of the illegal activity, the fact remains that if human beings want something bad enough, they will find a way to get it, fence or no. Tunnels are being dug as you read this, “coyotes” are collecting passage fees, and American citizens are taking bribes to look the other way. It is just the way it is, and I fear it will never change.
That said, one of the most prolific, and cash bloated crimes committed today, one that was once considered “white collar”, is far from being solved as those who enter our country illegally seek false documents with REAL information on them! Stories are told of individuals who have had their Social security number used by four and five different illegals, without the first clue until they need to collect disability or retirement funds from the social security administration. Imagine trying to explain that to someone who is on the government payroll. Ya, uh …. No thanks! Fortunately, you’ve just been dealt all aces.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act has given us the ability to STOP these wolves from stealing our good names, and robbing us of our hard earned credit ratings. Following is a section of the FCRA which deals directly with this issue, and it explains your rights as a consumer.
605A. Identity theft prevention; fraud alerts and active duty alerts [15
(a) One-call Fraud Alerts
(1) Initial alerts. Upon the direct request of a consumer, or an individual
acting on behalf of or as a personal representative of a consumer, @
asserts in good faith a suspicion that the consumer has been or is about
to become a victim of fraud or related crime, including identity theft,
a consumer reporting agency described in section 603(p) that maintains
a file on the consumer and has received appropriate proof of the
identity of the requester, must-
(A) include a fraud alert in the file of that consumer, and also provide that alert along with any credit score generated in using that file, for a period of not less than 90 days, beginning on the date of such request, unless the consumer or such representative requests that such fraud alert be removed before the end of such period, and the agency has received appropriate proof of the identity of the requester for such purpose;
Did you get all of that? Does that sound ANYTHING like changing the oil in your SUV? ONE PHONE CALL every 3 month’s! It’s as simple as that. Did you notice all the references regarding “consumer representatives”? Can you guess who that might be? I told you that paying $120 for a few minutes of work per year was a scam, and this law tells you exactly how they do it! You GIVE them the right to REPRESENT you in your credit affairs, and all they do is call and place
a fraud alert. Then, ANY business or entity wishing to purchase their customer list, with YOUR NAME on it, pays them big bucks for it, and the ID theft protection EXPERTS make even MORE money! Listen. Most of us today have SEVERAL avenues we can use to remind us to call and re-instate the fraud alert. Your PC, PDA, cell phone, laptop, date book, etc. If none of that appeals to you, just resort to the old tried and true calendar method. If we don’t take this seriously, and we can’t find the time, all of America is in DEEP trouble. Please be sure to let your friends and family in on this, as the more we protect OURSELVES, the less our government has to worry about, and we ALL know how inept they are already! On top of that, are you truly comfortable giving a complete stranger the ability to access your credit file and do as they please? NOT ME!
As with virtually anything in this world that is good, there are some
issues that need to be discussed at length before you run off and make
that call, so PLEASE read ALL of this!
1. Pre-Approved Offers
During such time that you have a fraud alert in place, all “Pre-Approved” offers will cease for a period of up to one year. Now, for some, that is a VERY GOOD THING! If you have relatively good credit, and you are happy with the cards you have, this will stop all the junk mail from the vultures trying to steal you away from the sharks you are currently swimming with. For those people attempting to re-build their credit, this can be a hindrance, although a very small one. Rather than randomly picking one of the offers received through the mail, take the time to RESEARCH a few on your own. Chances are, there is a MUCH better deal out there, and you have total control over the whole process. Remember, they PAID someone for a list of people who fit their target market, and you were on it! Don’t give them the satisfaction. College students and young adults need not worry much, as they
typically will not receive as many offers as those with established credit histories. Don’t forget, students don’t need to be applying for a lot of credit anyway. One good credit card for emergencies only (this excludes beer kegs) and MAYBE a gas card should suffice, until you have a full time job which enables you to make the payments.
Regardless, you may remove the fraud alert at any time you so desire, opening the flood gates once again. Switching credit card companies in order to lower, or do away with interest is an excellent strategy and should be pursued. However, I prefer to go and find the deals myself,
rather than allowing the “enemy” to dictate my course of action. Dave Ramsey, a well known financial planner/counselor, has a saying he uses quite a bit, and it goes something like this. “Just go out there, kill it, and drag it home!” Being the hunter is ALWAYS much better than being the hunted.
2. The “in good faith” clause
Section 605A of the FCRA, states that any consumer who “in good faith” feels their identity, or credit rating may be, or is, in jeopardy, may place a fraud alert. Now, who in this world today DOESN’T TRULY feel that there is a chance they may be, or may become, the victim of identity theft or credit fraud? Unless you have been living in the mountains like “Grizzly Adams”, you certainly should feel at least a bit concerned about it. Grizzly Adams had only a bear for a best friend, a log cabin, no running water, an out house and he chopped wood for his fireplace to keep from freezing to death in the winter. When was the last time you chopped wood for the SOLE purpose of survival? That’s what I thought. So, proving to yourself that you may be a victim, or may become a victim of ID theft or fraud should not be difficult in the least.
(a) How many products have you purchased that required you to call customer service, or the “tech line”? Where do most of these calls actually end up going to? India? How about some of the high tech services you utilize? The same scenario, no? These people are thousands
of miles away most of the time, and guess what they have access to! Exactly! YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION! Now, how can you honestly feel that you are NOT at high risk for fraud or ID theft? It is a BIG, illegal cash business, and it should be of grave concern to you.
(b) Are you divorced? Was it an ugly separation? Most married couples fail to keep their credit files separate, and this can be a HUGE issue if the marriage ends badly. Women are usually the ones to suffer from this, as the husband is typically the “bread winner”, and the woman ends up back in the game with NO CREDIT! How did he/she get the lease approved for their new apartment? How about that new sports car? Did you give them specific authorization to use your credit history or ID? I’ll venture to say that you didn’t.
(c) How many times have you moved in the past few years? Can you be 100% positive that ALL of your mail was forwarded? Have you had a mailed payment get “lost”? Maybe you came home the other day to find your mailbox open? Are you certain that everything the mail carrier left in the box was still there? This is truly a growing problem, prompting some communities to utilize a centralized mail delivery “station”, with each homeowner’s individual box having a keyed lock. Even if you live in a secure, gated community, delivery vehicles, service technicians and visitors are coming and going at all hours of the day. Who is watching your mailbox? Mail theft happens, and it may have already happened to you!
(d) Do you shred every piece of mail that you discard? How much of your personal information is included in that “junk mail” you just tossed in the trash can? Maybe during your last move, a box of files somehow came up missing? How much damage could be done if it fell in
to the wrong hands? A lot I’m sure and we could go on and on here. Just throwing things in the trash isn’t enough. People make a living going through our garbage, and something you tossed a year ago can show up tomorrow on the top of the heap.
(e) Have you EVER lost your wallet or purse? Did you get it back? If not, you probably called the bank and credit card companies, etc. What other information did you carry in there? Most purses tend to become a catch all of sorts (as well as wallets) consisting of Social Security cards, insurance cards, old receipts. How much of that did you lose? Let’s say you were lucky enough to get it back. How long was it actually missing? Suppose someone found it, did a thorough and lengthy search, all the while taking detailed notes, and THEN decided to turn it in or call you? You were so thrilled to get it back with all it’s contents in tact, you just assumed they were trustworthy and never followed up?
There are many more reasons to be concerned, so don’t feel that you are somehow taking advantage of a loophole. The so called ID theft experts out there charging people hundreds of dollars a year are doing the EXACT SAME THING! You are just smarter than the average Joe, and
you will reap the benefits that come with doing this yourself, all the while keeping your good name where it belongs!
If you took the opportunity to visit the FTC website mentioned earlier,
you may have read Part (B) of section 605, which states:
“the agency …. refer the information regarding the fraud alert under
this paragraph to each of the other consumer reporting agencies
described in section 603
(p), in accordance with procedures developed under section 621 (f).
In other words, one call does it all. Whether you contact Experian, Transunion or Equifax, they are required by this law to notify the other two! That said, after you receive confirmation from your contact agency, you should probably contact the other two just to be sure, but DO NOT place an alert with them if they haven’t received notification yet! Call the first agency back and complain! Why? You want to save the other two for your future alerts. Thus, you are rotating them as to NOT place an INITIAL alert with the same agency more than twice in a calendar year. This may be a bit of overkill, but it certainly can’t hurt!
One more item. You will want to get a copy of your credit report BEFORE you call in the fraud alert. Yes, you will get a FREE copy from all three of them after you place the alert, but this is sent via “snail mail”, and that can take weeks. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com for a TRULY free credit report online and www.howtogooru.com/lifeguard.html for a free eBook that will give you a MAJOR boost in your credit!
With your newly acquired credit reports and FICO scores printed out, it’s time to call one of the reporting agencies and place the fraud alert. Most of you will have found at least some unknown or incorrect items that will only help to solidify your need for the fraud protection. Be sure to write detailed notes regarding ANYTHING suspicious you may have found. On the following two pages, you will find the phone numbers and addresses of all three of the big agencies. It really makes no difference which one you call, but some have reported quicker response times when contacting the agency closest to you, geographically. Take one more minute here to read the following excerpt from the FCRA. This explains what the agency MUST disclose to you. If they don’t, CALL THEM OUT!
605A. Identity theft prevention; fraud alerts and active duty alerts [15
I (2] Access t0 [rec reports. In any case in which a consumer reporting
agency includes a fraud alert in the file of a consumer pursuant to this sub section, the consumer reporting agency shall-
(A) disclose to the consumer that the consumer may request a free copy
of the file of the consumer pursuant to section 612 (d): and
(B) provide to the consumer all disclosures required to be made under
section 609, without charge to the consumer, not later than 3 business
days after any request described in subparagraph (A).
This will be FREE credit report number 2 for you, and you still have 3 more coming at 90 day intervals! This strategy works very well, and I wish you great success with it! Be prepared to get a verification phone call EVERY time you apply for credit. Do not get annoyed if this causes short delays, as the whole purpose of this is to make sure that credit is being handed out to YOU, and ONLY YOU!
UPDATE: Recently, a few consumers have reported that SOME lending institutions are freezing accounts, for a short time, after the alert has been placed. BE SURE TO CONTACT YOUR CREDITORS and ask about their specific policies regarding this issue!
P.O. BOX 740241
ATLANTA, GA 30374
800-685-1 11 1
P.O. BOX 2104
ALLEN, TX 75013
P.O. BOX 2000
CHESTER, PA 19022
*It is important to note here, that the information above is subject to change and should be verified before attempting any correspondence.