Financial Tip of the Week from the Iowa Bankers Association:
Wondering how you can fight identity theft? One of the simplest things you can do is take a few minutes to request your free credit reports. Each of your credit reports, also known as credit files, contains vital information about your credit history gathered from your creditors and public records. This information includes your credit card accounts, lines of credit and how you pay your bills.
These reports are managed by three nationwide credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Federal law allows consumers to view a free credit report from each agency every 12 months. This is a great opportunity to verify the accuracy of the information in your credit report and to make sure criminals haven't stolen your identity to open credit card accounts in your name. You can choose to receive all three free reports at once, or you can monitor your credit throughout the year by requesting one report every few months.
How to Request Your Free Reports
To obtain your free credit reports, visit www.annualcreditreport.com, the official Web site to help consumers to obtain their free credit report in accordance with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act. Keep in mind that if a Web site offers you a "free" credit report but also wants your credit card information, you are in the wrong place. There are many companies who offer "free reports," but the catch is that you are required to sign up for a costly credit monitoring program. The official www.annualcreditreport.com Web site provides your free reports with no obligation.
When you request your report online, you'll be asked to provide some personal identification information and will then be asked a few questions to verify your identity. When your identity has been authenticated, you'll have instant access to your credit reports.
You may also request your free report by calling (877) 322-8228. You will be required to go through a simple verification process to verify your identity. Free credit reports can also be requested by mail by downloading the request form online. (Free credit reports requested by phone or mail will be processed within 15 days of receiving your request.)
Review Your Reports
When you receive your credit reports, review them carefully. Look for inquiries from companies you haven't contacted, accounts you didn't open and debts that are unfamiliar to you. If you find an error or notice any suspicious activity, you have the right to challenge the inaccurate information. Immediately contact the credit reporting agency at the phone number listed on your report for assistance or to dispute the information.
For more information about the credit reporting agencies, visit their Web sites:
· Equifax (www.equifax.com)
· Experian (www.experian.com)
· TransUnion (www.transunion.com)
Information provided by the Iowa Bankers Association (IBA), representing banks and thrifts in the state. For more information go to www.iowabankers.com.