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Monthly Archives: July 2012

When your identity is stolen – What do you do?

Recently I experienced a great loss. I wasn’t smart and I left my purse and the contents of my life in a friend’s car. What do you hate to accept? You were lazy, didn’t wanna bring it, didn’t think otherwise, and yes that your purse is stolen. My purse was stolen!

Having a day planner is a necessity for some which can be an immediate ‘red flag’. I carried mine in my purse and I go everywhere. It had  information written down that ‘I would never lose’. I used that thing religiously for bills, important ‘to do’ items, resolutions, balances, entertainment schedules, etc.

When it comes to sunglasses/glasses they can be replaced, a cellphone can also be replaced, pens/pencils can be replaced, and even a set of keys can be replaced. The information that is in a wallet or day planner cannot be replaced – as easily.

  • The money, gone.
  • Credit cards, gone.
  • ID or Driver’s license (maybe even both), gone.
  • Social security card, gone.
  • Checks, gone.
  • Proprietary information, gone.

Everyone knows not to leave ANYTHING VALUABLE inside a car. Also never take anything important with you like your social security card or birth certificate. I’ve heard of some say to leave your credit cards at home to ensure this doesn’t happen to you. What about the ‘responsible’ people like myself? What if you’re traveling. It’s important to make the best judgement. It’s also very important that you are aware of where you are leaving important items, like your purse.

ID theft is a crime but it doesn’t stop someone from the ‘smash and grab’, you have to be more careful!

What do you do first when your identity is stolen? Do you call your banks to cancel your accounts? Do you call the police? What exactly happens when you’re ID is stolen? Those are all great questions and honestly you could never know until years later that you have been a victim of ID theft.

I have been stressing the importance of paying for a ‘monitoring service’. When something like this happens to you, you are really going to wanna know how to properly handle the situation. The first couple days are crucial so you need to have a plan and you need to act quick!

The steps I took to prepare:

  • Contacted the police for a case #
  • Contacted my financial institutions
  • Change passwords to ALL accounts
  • Contact credit monitor
  • Place a fraud alert on my account
  • Obtain new cards from financial institutions
  • Contact my landlord (keys stolen) replace locks

Having a credit monitoring service to help you watch for fraud is dire at a time like this! If I did not have a monitoring service to help track fraud on my identity; I would feel rather uncomfortable. I feel safer now knowing that although my information has been jeopardized I am still okay to carry on my daily routine as I would if I hadn’t had my purse stolen. Of course it will take time to get back together once you’ve been victimized but it is not impossible to protect yourself in the future.

‘The price of greatness is responsibility.’ – Winston Churchill

 

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Step Two – So now your have your reports?

After collecting your credit reports and identifying any inaccuracies in your report; you’re going to want to send the bureau(s) a certified letter demanding the removal of your incorrect item(s) with the report included.

The first time you send your letter(s) be sure to include COPIES of all documents and every time after that you will want proof of your dispute in the future so DO NOT PUT IN THE ORIGINAL COPIES. You want to keep files of all your disputes, have a copy of the ‘package’ you mailed the bureaus. Credit bureaus are known to bring things back up that is why I am forewarning you. A good example would be past (paid) collection accounts. I would hate to have that report again to your credit if it was already settled, right?

When you mail a certified letter through the post office you will need to pay a little bit more but you are ensured someone is going to sign for your letter. Typically you will get a ‘green slip’ in the mail after 3-5 days with a stamp from the entity on the back verifying that it was retrieved. From that point on you can begin counting your days. The investigation process takes some time which we will get into, but as a friendly reminder:

  • Do not sign your name on anything you send to the CRA’s
  • Never send original copies
  • Always send certified return receipt
  • Include your report (highlight or make prominent the inaccuracy)

You are also going to want to ensure you stay organized. Do not send all disputes at once, you are allotted three disputes at a time. You do not want to be marked as frivolous because you will be in a sense ‘blacklisted’ from disputing that inaccuracy. Do your research make sure you’ve included everything for the bureaus to start the investigation process. The more you can provide them the better off you will be and the faster you will be traveling on your path to having great credit.

What helped me in this process is my monitoring service as well. Although I had my reports I would compare and contrast them to the monitoring service. The reason I did this is because the monitoring service doesn’t typically give you all the information and address that the CRA would typically give in their report. The monitoring services really give you the bare minimum. What can make your credit repair process a lot harder.

It’s also a excellent idea to get your reports in full from the bureaus individually and use the monitoring service only to track updates.Then you can make sure that the monitoring service is working as expected and you can also see your scores rise as you dispute items on your credit. As you watch your scores raise it will give you the benefit of the doubt that it is working. There are stagnant times when your credit doesn’t budge. Those times happen to the best of us! Usually what will happen is the big stuff makes the biggest difference, that is what you want to attack first.

CG

 

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Documentation to prove identity when disputing inaccuracies – What do I need to send?

It’s important that you send all requests through certified mail. You will need to keep your certified return receipt as well. This will help to track your letter and it will ensure with the ‘green slip’ there was someone that had signed for your letter.

When you are mailing your disputes to the CRA’s (credit reporting agencies) or requesting a credit report directly from them be sure to include these documents:

  • Your Full Legal Name
  • Your Date of Birth
  • Social Security Number
  • Current Mailing Address
  • If Less Than 5 Years, Include Your Previous Address
  • A Copy of Your Driver’s License Showing Your Current Address
  • A Copy of Your Social Security Card – If Your SS Number Is Not On Your Driver’s License

There are often other times where a bureau will request more information to verify your identity. Those documents could be any of the items below:

  • Current Employer
  • Current Employer Address
  • Phone Number
  • Signature
  • Current Utility Bill
  • Lease Arrangement/Rental Receipt

**FACT: I’ve always been told to not provide your signature for the privacy of yourself. You would not want to have your signature placed on something that you did not agree to. You must be very careful in repairing credit on your own. If you have questions or concerns I am here to help!

CG

 

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How to identify inaccuracies on your credit report – Who do I write to?

Your credit has 6 sections:

  • Personal Information: your full name, your social security number, your birth date, your current and previous addresses, your employment history, and your driver’s license information.
  • Account Information: opening and closing dates on accounts, student loans, lines-of-credit, mortgages, balances and credit limits, history of payments, child support, over-the-limit checking accounts.
  • Inquiries: a hard pull of your credit report from a creditor when you apply for credit.
  • Public Records and Collection Accounts: including information that has been collected from debt collection agencies and court systems.  Also includes reports on liens or judgments, foreclosures, bankruptcies, wage attachments, and accounts in collection.  Court records included in this section can include divorce, which is usually considered a negative by lending institutions.
  • Consumer Statements: you may add a statement to your credit report explaining certain adverse situations appearing on their credit report including ID Theft. These statements are seldom considered in financial transactions and have no effect on an individual’s credit score.
  • Credit score: which rates your overall risk.  This number ranges from 340 to 850, with higher numbers the less risky you appear to a lender.

If anything in your report is incorrect, inaccurate, appearing to show as ‘late’ or ‘missed payment’, be sure to address that immediately. Also if you see that an inquiry is posted on your report that you did not initiate contact the creditor requesting proof of your signature. It’s always a good idea as well to submit a consumer statement. Especially if you are asking for forgiveness from other lenders after a judgement, bk, repossession, etc.

Below are the addresses for the bureaus, be sure you include all of the required documents in order to speed up the investigation process.

Experian
P.O. Box 9556
Allen, TX 75013

Equifax
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

TransUnion
Trans Union Consumer Relations
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000

GC

 

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Federal Trade Commission – Your rights as a consumer

The Federal Trade Commission requires that all businesses place this at the top of their site:

“You have the right to a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com or 877-322-8228, the ONLY authorized source under federal law.” – therefore you can use this site to pull all three reports absolutely free! You have the right as a consumer to access your credit reports. You may also send snail mail to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348 if you would prefer.

Credit monitoring services are usually the best route to retrieving your credit reports and scores. Typically you will have to purchase your scores separately if you utilize AnnualCreditReport.com. Some sites will claim that they are free, but usually require you enroll in some product or service. I recommend using a monitoring service because you can see updates monthly or quarterly. Also you receive alerts when your credit updates which is very important when repairing your credit.

Also here is the Fair Credit Reporting Act link from the Federal Trade Commission website: http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/031224fcra.pdf it has depth to it.

CG

 

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Comparing services – What features appeal to you?

Most monitoring services give you access to a variety of different tools and services. When utilizing a monitoring service not only are you receiving your credit reports and scores, but you are almost always going to have ID theft protection included. Which is important too!

Features that I like to see in a monitoring service:

  1. ID Theft Protection
  2. 3-in-1 Credit Reports
  3. 3-in-1 Credit Scores
  4. Credit Stimulator
  5. Education Center
  6. Credit Alert Updates
  7. Safety Seal
  8. Access to good customer service
  9. Excellent Reputation
  10. Good Reviews

It’s always good to ask around as well. You friends or neighbors may know of other additional tools that could be useful in your credit repairing process. I know that Wells Fargo offers a credit monitoring service when you do your banking with them. I’ve looked around other places for this same feature, but unfortunately WF seems to have the ‘one up’.

CG

 

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Comparing services – Monitoring services I’ve used

As I stated earlier I was going to dedicate a post specifically to credit monitoring services. First I am going to touch bases on the services I’ve used and my experiences with them.

  1. Free Score
  2. Score Sense
  3. Identity Guard

Free Score – I utilized Free Score for probably about 6 months. It was my very first monitoring service that appealed to me. Unfortunately after that extended period of time I started to feel a bit ‘taken advantage of’. I say this because I was not receiving notifications/alerts that my credit was being updated.

I know too that my credit indeed was updating. I became a bit frustrated after I applied for a new line-of-credit to establish my credit further and I did not receive a notification that I had a ‘new installment loan’. I decided to part with Free Score after I realized their information was not posting as immediate as I would prefer.

Score Sense – I found Score Sense which I felt was just up my alley like Free Score. I started to fool around with their site and realized that once again, I needed to get up to speed with my alerts. I began to notice that I wasn’t getting my monies worth. The education center on the site wasn’t as detailed as Free Score either.

Identity Guard – Identity Guard is a little higher in price, but you get what you pay for! I have been with Identity Guard now for about a month. I am very satisfied with the results. I know that with this service I actually feel safe. I feel like my information is secure, I know I’m protected in all verticals. I am alerted almost instantly by email when there’s an update to my report or score! Which isn’t that the purpose of having a monitoring service? To make you feel safe, secure, protected?

Overall all three of these were ideal for the time being. It really comes down to what is the best for you and your situation? What features would you like to see in a monitoring service? Those things matter!

My suggestions to you would be to do your research. It’s good to use a free trial first, therefore you can fool around and get comfortable before you lock yourself in!

GC

 

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