Finance Globe

U.S. financial and economic topics from several finance writers.
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Free Credit Reports

The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday alerted consumers that the agency has received complaints about companies who claim to give consumers a free credit report.

The credit reports these companies offer aren't truly free - the consumer gets stuck with fees that are hidden in the fine print, or they are enrolled in memberships for unwanted services.

We've all seen that often-run commercial with the catchy jingle about how this guitar-toting man's life is a mess because of identity theft and he's forced to work at some restaurant.

And though the name of the company implies a free credit report, it doesn't come without a catch - this is exactly one of those companies the FTC is warning about. The credit report itself may be free, but upon ordering it you'll automatically be enrolled in a membership that will cost you $14.95 a month if you don't cancel within seven days.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees consumers truly free access to their credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion every twelve months. Consumers may become confused when they know they are entitled to a free report by federal law, and they see an ad for a company that offers a free credit report. But there is only one authorized source for your free credit report under federal law, and that is AnnualCreditReport.com.

And to fight back at companies that mislead consumers by offering a "free credit report," the FTC released their own commercials with a catchy jingle - complete with the guitars. The two videos promote AnnualCreditReport.com and warns consumers not to be fooled by companies that claim to give free credit reports. The FTC short videos can be seen at http://ftc.gov/freereports.

You can also get your free credit reports if you call 1-877-322-8228, or fill out the Annual Credit Report Request form and mail it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

You can order all three at once, or you can order one at a time. You can check your credit report more often than once a year - an important step to fight identity theft - by ordering a report from one agency at a time every four months or so. Your report is free, with no strings attached. Your credit score is not included in your free report, but you can order it at the same time you order your free report.

Once you receive your credit report, check for errors and be sure the information is up-to-date. Dispute any mis-information to the reporting credit bureau by following the agency's dispute process. The reporting credit bureau is required to research whether the information is accurate. If they can't verify the information, they must remove it from your credit file.

In the case of identity theft, the credit bureau may just call the reporting creditor, verify that you have an account with the creditor, and then decide the information is correct. Because of this, you may find it more effective to also dispute directly with the reporting creditor.

Through a conversation with you, the reporting creditor may realize that the account was opened fraudulently and agree to remove the item from your credit report. If it can't be proven over the phone, be prepared to supply other documentation to prove that it wasn't you who opened the fraudulent account in your own name.

In addition to reporting the inaccuracy to the creditor and credit reporting agency, also file a police report and a complaint to the FTC if you suspect identity theft.

The FTC wants to hear from you if you paid for what you thought was your free annual credit report. They would also like you to forward any unsolicited emails that offer you a free credit report to spam@uce.gov. AnnualCreditReport.com will never send email solicitations for your free annual credit report or use pop up ads.

The FTC is the nation's consumer protection agency against fraudulent, deceptive, or abusive business practices. You can file a complaint against unfair business at www.FTC.gov.


Source:
Federal Trade Commission
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Monday, 14 October 2019

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