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Financial Friday: Periodic Credit Report Check

Every two seconds an American becomes the victim of identity fraud, according to Javelin Strategy & Research. You should check each of the three major credit reports annually for unusual activity that may indicate someone is misusing your identity and hurting your credit. This is important because you will need good credit to take out car loans, apply for apartments, and credit is even sometimes checked by employers. Stagger these checks throughout the year, so that any unusual activity can be identified in a more timely manner. Get a free annual credit report from Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion each year.

Once you receive your credit report, look for:

  • incorrect information
  • unfamiliar addresses
  • odd variations of your name
  • debts you don’t owe, and
  • credit inquiries for others’ loans.

Dispute any incorrect information in writing, and mail corrections with supporting documentation attached.

Should you suspect fraud, be aware that you have the right to place a free fraud alert in their file to alert potential creditors that you may be a victim of identity theft. Creditors must then follow certain procedures to protect you. An “initial fraud alert” stays in the consumer’s file for at least 90 days, and therefore may delay the ability to obtain additional credit. An “extended fraud alert” stays in the consumer’s file for seven years, and will require an identity theft report (usually, a filed police report). To place a fraud alert, call any one of the three national consumer reporting agencies, which will notify the other two agencies. Alert Equifax online, or use its other contact information:
Phone: 1-800-525-6285 or 1-888-766-0008

Mail: Equifax Consumer Fraud Division, P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374

Valrie Chambers, Ph.D., professor of accounting, and Betty Thorne, Ph.D., professor of statistics and the Christian R. Lindback Chair of Business Administration, write Financial Fridays to bolster students’ financial wellness including preventing financial mistakes, safeguarding their assets and identity, and thinking critically about financial decisions.

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