Credit Reports and Identity Theft

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1 Credit Reports and Identity Theft Information in this packet concerning credit reports was gathered from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and can be found at Information concerning identity theft was gathered from the Federal Trade Commission, and can be found at The FTC publication Taking Charge was also consulted. What is a credit report? A credit report contains information about your credit history and the status of your credit accounts. This information includes how often you make your payments on time, how much credit you have, how much credit you have available, how much credit you are using, and whether a debt collector is collecting on any debt you owe. Credit reports also can contain public records such as liens, judgments, and bankruptcies that provide insight into your financial status and obligations. Lenders use these reports to help them decide if they will loan you money, what interest rates they will offer you, or to check the status of an existing loan. Companies can purchase these consumer credit reports to help inform them while making a wide range of business decisions such as providing or pricing insurance; renting you an apartment; and (if you agree to let them look at your consumer report) making employment decisions about you. Credit reporting companies (also known as credit bureaus or consumer reporting agencies) compile these reports. How do I get a copy of my credit report? Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to get a free copy of your credit report, technically known as a file disclosure from the nationwide credit reporting companies. You can receive a free credit report once every 12 months: By phone: Call By mail: Download and complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service P.O. Box Atlanta, GA No matter which method you choose, you have the option to request reports from the nationwide credit reporting companies at once or one report at a time. By requesting the reports at the same time, you can determine whether any of your files have errors. By requesting the reports 1

2 separately, you can monitor your credit file more frequently throughout the year. Your free credit report does not include a credit score. You are also eligible for free reports from nationwide specialty consumer reporting companies. Be aware that there are many websites that claim to offer free credit reports. A number of these sites will only give you a free report if you buy other products or services. Still others give you a free report and then bill you for services you have to cancel. To get the free credit report authorized by law, go to AnnualCreditReport.com, and nowhere else. Why is it important for me to review my credit report? You should check your credit report at least once a year to make sure there are no errors that could keep you from getting credit or best available terms on a loan. You should also check your report before making a major purchase that would involve a loan, such as a house or a car. Be sure the information in the report is accurate and up-to-date. It is also a good idea to review your credit information regularly to guard against identity theft. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal or financial information to commit fraud. For example, an identity thief may use your information to open a new credit card account in your name. When they do not pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report, damaging your ability to get credit in the future and subjecting you to calls from bill collectors. You should fix errors in your credit report. The information in your credit report affects whether you can get a loan and how much you will have to pay to borrow money. So if you find something wrong with your credit report, dispute it. Be on the lookout for loans or credit cards listed that you never opened, misspelled names, or collection items that were not updated after a settlement was reached and satisfied. Also, be on the lookout for duplicates of the same debt appearing on your report. There should only be one listing of each debt you owe. The information in your credit report affects whether you can get a loan and how much you will have to pay to borrow money. How to avoid a bad credit report? Many people have financial problems beyond their control. A prolonged illness or a job loss may deplete your bank accounts. You can and should protect your credit report by: Don t take on more debt than you can handle. Keep an emergency fund equal to at least three to six months take-home pay. Repay all debts as agreed. If for some reason you are unable to make a payment or if it will be late, talk to your creditor to work out a solution that will satisfy both of you. When you can t pay your bills as scheduled, contact the creditors before your accounts are declared delinquent. 2

3 What if my identity has been stolen? If you take action quickly, you can stop an identity thief from doing more damage. Follow these three steps as soon as possible: 1. Place an Initial Fraud Alert 2. Order Your Credit Reports 3. Create an Identity Theft Report Monitor Your Progress Throughout Resolving identity theft takes phone calls and letters. Create a system to organize your papers and calls, and to track deadlines. Item How To Track Tips Telephone Calls Create a log of all teleophone calls. Record the date of each call and the names and telephone numbers of everyone you contact. Prepare your quesitons before you call, and write down the answers you receive. Postal Mail Documents Deadlines Send letters by certified mail. Create a filing system. Make a timeline Ask for a return receipt. Keep all originals. Send copies of your documents and reports instead of the originals. Make copies of your identification to include in letters List important dates, including when you must file requests or send followups. 1. Place an Initial Fraud Alert Three national credit reporting companies keep records of your credit history. If someone has misused your personal or financial information, call 1 of the companies and ask for an initial fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert is free. You must provide proof of your identity. The company you call must tell the other companies about your alert. An initial fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. When you have an alert on your report, a business must verify your identity before it issues credit, so it may try to contact you. The initial alert stays on your report for at least 90 days. You can renew it after 90 days. It allows you to order one free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies. Be sure the credit reporting companies have your current contact information so they can get in touch with you. How to Place an Initial Fraud Alert 1. Contact 1 credit reporting company. o Report that you are an identity theft victim. o Ask the company to put a fraud alert on your credit file. o Confirm that the company you call will contact the other 2 companies. Placing a fraud alert is free. The initial fraud alert stays on your credit report for 90 days. 3

4 o Be sure the credit reporting companies have your current contact information so they can get in touch with you. 2. Update your files. The credit reporting company will explain that you can get a free credit report, and other rights you have. 3. Mark your calendar. The initial fraud alert stays on your report for 90 days. You can renew it after 90 days. 4. Update your files. o Record the dates you made calls or sent letters. o Keep copies of letters in your files. 2. Order Your Credit Reports Now that you ve placed an initial fraud alert, you re entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies.the credit reporting company that you call will explain your rights and how you can get a free copy of your credit report. Order the report and ask the company to show only the last four digits of your Social Security number on your report. If you know which of your accounts have been tampered with, contact the related businesses. Talk to someone in the fraud department, and follow up in writing. Send your letters by certified mail; ask for a return receipt. That creates a record of your communications. When you review the credit reports, you may find unauthorized charges or accounts, which you are entitled to dispute. How to Order Your Free Credit Reports 1. Contact each of the 3 nationwide credit-reporting companies. o Explain that you placed an initial fraud alert. o Order your free copy of your credit report. o Ask each company to show only the last 4 digits of your Social Security number on your report. 2. Update your files. o Record the dates you made calls or sent letters. o Keep copies of letters in your files. 3. Create an Identity Theft Report An Identity Theft Report gives you some important rights that can help you recover from the theft. To create one, file a complaint with the FTC and print your Identity Theft Affidavit. Use that to file a police report and create your Identity Theft Report. An Identity Theft Report will help you deal with credit reporting companies, debt collectors, and businesses that gave the identity thief credit or opened new accounts in your name. You can use the Report to: Get fraudulent information removed from your credit report Stop a company from collecting debts that result from identity theft, or from selling the debt to another company for collection Place an extended fraud alert on your credit report Get information from companies about accounts the identity thief opened or misused 4

5 How to Create an Identity Theft Report 1. Submit a report about the theft to the FTC. When you finish writing all the details, print a copy of the report. It will be called an Identity Theft Affidavit. 2. Bring your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit when you file a police report. 3. File a police report about the identity theft, and get a copy of the police report or the report number. Your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit and your police report make an Identity Theft Report. Some companies want more information than the Identity Theft Report includes, or want different information. The information you need to provide depends on the policies of the credit reporting company and the business that sent the information about you to the credit reporting company. These steps should help stop the immediate damage of identity theft. Then you can take the next steps to clean up problems caused by the thief. How to Create FTC Identity Theft Affidavit Online: 1. Complete the FTC s online form for reporting fraud. o Complete the complaint form with as many details as you know. o Review the form and click submit. o Save the complaint reference number that appears after you submit your information. You ll need your complaint reference number to update your complaint online or by phone. 2. Save or print your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit. o Click on the words Click here to get your completed FTC Identity Theft Affidavit. o Before you leave that screen, be sure you saved or printed your Affidavit. You cannot save or print it after you leave this screen. By Phone: 1. Call the FTC at o Tell the representative what happened. o Ask for your complaint reference number and Affidavit password. The FTC representative will you a link so you can get your Affidavit. 5

6 2. Save or print your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit. o Go to the link the representative sent you. o Enter your complaint reference number, Affidavit password, and your address. o Print or save your Identity Theft Affidavit. After submitting online or by phone: 1. Update your files. 1. Record the dates you filed your complaint. 2. Keep copies of your Affidavit in your files. 2. If necessary, call the FTC to update your complaint. Be ready to provide your complaint reference number. How to File a Police Report 1. Go to your local police department or the police department where the theft occurred. Bring: o A copy of your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit o Any other proof of the theft o A government-issued ID with a photo o Proof of your address (rental agreement, pay stub or utilities bill) o FTC's Memo to Law Enforcement [PDF] 2. Complete a report about the theft. In some states, police must take your report. If the police won t take a report about the identity theft, ask if you can file a miscellaneous incidents report, or go to a different police station, or the sheriff s department, state police or federal authority. 3. Ask to have a copy, or the number, of the report. 4. Update your files. o Record the dates you made calls or visits. o Record your police report number. o Keep a copy of your police report in your files. How to Create Your Identity Theft Report 1. Attach your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit to your police report. o Keep a complete copy in your files. 6

7 Annual Credit Report Request Form You have the right to get a free copy of your credit file disclosure, commonly called a credit report, once every 12 months, from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. For instant access to your free credit report, visit For more information on obtaining your free credit report, visit or call Use this form if you prefer to write to request your credit report from any, or all, of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies. The following information is required to process your request. Omission of any information may delay your request. Once complete, fold (do not staple or tape), place into a #10 envelope, affix required postage and mail to: Annual Credit Report Request Service P.O. Box Atlanta, GA Please use a Black or Blue Pen and write your responses in PRINTED CAPITAL LETTERS without touching the sides of the boxes like the examples listed below: Social Security Number: - - Date of Birth: / / Month Day Year First Name M.I. Last Name Current Mailing Address: JR, SR, III, etc. House Number Street Name Apartment Number / Private Mailbox For Puerto Rico Only: Print Urbanization Name City State ZipCode Previous Mailing Address (complete only if at current mailing address for less than two years): House Number Street Name Apartment Number / Private Mailbox For Puerto Rico Only: Print Urbanization Name City State ZipCode Shade Circle Like This > Not Like This > Iwantacreditreportfrom(shade each that you would like to receive): Equifax Experian TransUnion Shade here if, for security reasons, you want your credit report to include no more than the last four digits of your Social Security Number. If additional information is needed to process your request, the consumer credit reporting company will contact you by mail. Your request will be processed within 15 days of receipt and then mailed to you. Copyright 2004, Central Source LLC

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