Month: March 2010


IDENTITY THEFT RESOURCES


Identity theft is an issue that is regularly in the news – over the past couple of years, I’ve written multiple financial tips on the potentially devastating effects of identity theft. It is frightening to think that there are more than 8 million “new” victims each year in the U.S. I’d like to review the general strategies available to consumers to help minimize ID theft that have been shared prior and discuss some resources.

Personally Viewing Your Credit Report. Every 12 months you can order a report from each credit reporting agency for free. Most consumer experts suggest staggering your reports (ordering one every four months). Use the free, official government site only: www.annualcreditreport.com, NOT freecreditreport.com.

Opt Out. One way to reduce the risk of ID theft is to reduce the number of solicitations you receive. You can opt out of credit card and phone solicitations easily – see tip post from earlier this month

Fraud Alert. This is a ‘flag’ you can place on your credit report after being victimized. This alerts potential creditors that you are a potential fraud victim. Unfortunately, creditors aren’t required to abide by [or even check] the alert.

Credit Monitoring Service. A service where an annual fee is assessed to tell you when people are viewing your credit file. Most services honestly don’t add much of a benefit beyond what you can do for free [see above].

Credit Freeze. This is a very intriguing option and the only viable option that allows you to stop ID theft before it happens rather than reacting to issues after they surface. Consumers Union has compiled a helpful Credit Freeze Guide that provides answers to frequently asked questions and discusses state by state procedures and information.

FDIC – “Don’t Be An On-line Victim” (free CD-ROM). Free resource on guarding yourself against internet thieves and electronic scams. The free CD-Rom can be ordered at the FDIC website.

The ID theft resource has seven sections:
– Introduction to identity theft
– Introduction to electronic scams
– Protecting your information
– Protecting your computer
– What to do if you are a victim
– Help for identity theft victims
– Resources

ADDITIONAL ID THEFT RESOURCES.
Deter, Detect, Defend
Fighting Back
FTC ID Theft Site
Guard Against Internet Fraud
National Data
Publications
Resolving Specific Problems
State Data
Test Your Knowledge

OPTING OUT — PHONE, MAIL, & CREDIT OFFERS


I don't think anyone would argue that being bombarded by solicitations can be extremely annoying. It's been almost two years since I shared resources for opting out of such unwanted solicitations and felt it was a good time for a reminder …

The National Do Not Call Registry allows you to register both land lines and cell phones online at https://www.donotcall.gov or over the phone (1-888-382-1222calling from the number you are registering). Registration is free and used to be effective for five years. With the passing of the Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007 (signed in Feb. 2008), numbers placed on the registry will be removed permanently (unless/until you opt in). Solicitors affected by the legislation are required to stop the calls to you within 31 days of registration.

Registration won't stop all telemarketer calls. Banks, phone companies, airlines, insurance companies, nonprofit charitable organizations, and politicians are not under the jurisdiction of the FTC, and won't be impacted by the list. In addition, the list only applies to calls across State lines. Sales calls within a State will still be permitted unless you also opt out of solicitations through your State do not call registry (a separate registration process unless your State integrated their list with the national one which some did when the Federal list was initiated in 2003). State info is available at: http://www.the-dma.org/government/donotcalllists.shtml.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), credit reporting agencies are permitted to include your name on lists used by creditors or insurers to make firm offers for credit or insurance. The FCRA also enables you to opt out, which prevents the credit reporting agencies from providing the information contained in your credit file to others if you so desire.

Here are two good ways to stop [or at least slow] offers for credit:

(1) Go to www.OptOutPrescreen.com (or call 888-5-optout). These are the credit reporting agencies opt in/opt out resources to stop the agencies from selling your information to direct marketers. You can opt out for a five-year period or permanently (you can always opt back in if you decide you miss the mail!). If you use the website provided, you can fill out a very brief, simple form to opt out. It will then provide a screen with the information you provided that you will need to print out, sign, and mail to the address provided in order to permanently opt out. If you don’t do that last step (print and mail), it will opt you out for a 5-year period instead.

(2) Direct Marketing Association (DMA) Do Not Mail file (https://www.dmachoice.org). The site also shares information for getting off of commercial e-mail lists.

Credit card companies get consumer information from other sources in addition to those mentioned above, so, while these two methods will considerably slow down credit card offers, the offers won't necessarily stop completely. For additional info, review the FAQ page for opting in/out at: https://www.optoutprescreen.com/faq.htm.




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