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Don't Wait Until it is too Late - Avoid Identity Theft Now

Posted on in Uncategorized

By Attorney Raymond Dall'Osto

creditAccording to a recent article in the New York Times, on January 12, 2015, President Obama proposed that Congress strengthen laws against identity theft by requiring notification to consumers when their confidential information is hacked and by providing greater annual access to credit scores, in addition to being able to obtain annual credit bureau reports. The President also called for stricter laws and more vigorous prosecution for those committing cyberattacks on businesses and government, with substantially increased criminal penalties.

Under current law, individuals can request their credit bureau reports each year, free of charge. This right was enacted into law in the 2003 Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), and allows individual consumers to obtain credit reports from the three major national credit bureaus - TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. President Obama’s new proposal would expand this free access to also include a person’s credit score.

Every person in the United States has a “credit history,” which is linked to an individual’s Social Security number. A credit history shows when you’ve taken out a loan or used credit (made a purchase with a credit card, got a mortgage, etc.), if you’ve made late payments, if you’ve defaulted on a loan and more. If a person has a bad credit score, or no score at all, she or he may not be able to obtain a loan from a lender.

Consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) compile a person’s credit history, or credit report, and sell it to lenders, employers and other entities. The most common CRA is a credit bureau, with the three major ones noted above. Credit scores are calculated by either these credit bureaus or by outside companies using different scoring models. The most widely used scores are FICO scores, which typically range from 300–850. Generally, a FICO score of 720 or above is considered good credit, and a score above 750 is excellent credit. Some banks have begun providing their customers with free FICO credit score reports. Ask your bank if they can do the same.

New legislation granting a consumer free access to their credit score would, as President Obama stated, provide “an early warning system telling you that you’ve been hit by fraud so you can deal with it fast.”

Don’t wait until it is too late and you have been victimized by identity theft. Make it a practice to obtain and review your credit report each year from all three major credit bureaus to insure against identity theft and incorrect information. If you believe you might be the victim of identity theft, see the attached pamphlet from the Wisconsin Office of Privacy Protection, with valuable tips for consumers.

To request your free credit reports, go to the Federal Trade Commission website ftc.gov. At the bottom of the page, under the section “I would like to …” choose “get a free copy of my credit report.” You have the options of requesting your credit reports from TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. You can request free copies of each of these once per year. You can request them online, via telephone (877-322-8228) or by mail. Use the FTC website, as many other sites on the internet which offer the reports actually charge for them.

If you have found yourself the victim of identity theft or an “online” hack where your information has been stolen, please feel free to contact GRGB to discuss your situation, what steps can be taken to clear up the theft or hack and whether any civil actions exist against the hacker or thief to make you whole.

 

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