Protecting Your Credit – Part 2
In the wake of the Equifax and other highly publicized data breaches, the consumer is becoming increasingly aware of the need to exercise vigilance with respect to their credit identity. One of the most important tools to this end was created approximately 15 years ago through the passage of the federal Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (“FACTA”), which was enacted by Congress as an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970.
While there are many aspects of FACTA, one of the most important rights it created for consumers was the right to obtain their own credit report for free once every twelve months from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and Transunion. Notwithstanding that a regular credit review is an important tool for detecting identity theft in its early stages, not everyone takes advantage, or is even aware, of this opportunity afforded to them under FACTA. Some labor under the common misassumption that obtaining their own credit report will damage their credit. Obtaining your own credit report through the FACTA procedures is considered a “soft” inquiry and does not impact your credit (in contrast to a “hard” inquiry, which is a credit check by a potential creditor in response to a specific credit application).
The free credit report afforded to consumers under FACTA can be obtained online by going to www.annualcreditreport.com. The website will ask your birthdate, social security number, and a few other security questions. Therefore, before providing this information, it is very important to make certain that you have correctly entered the exact website address in your browser and are on the authorized website. You will also be asked to select which of the three bureaus’ reports you want to obtain. While you can request all three at the same time (provided you have not requested one within the past 12 months), you might prefer to space out the three requests over the course of the year. This could enable you to detect errors and/or fraudulent activity more readily than obtaining all three reports just once a year, since all three reports will usually reflect the same basic information.
Once you have correctly answered the security questions, the report will be instantaneously available to print or download. If you do detect any errors or suspicious activity in your report, the report will contain guidance as to how to dispute the information. Please note that www.annualcreditreport.com is the only website for requesting a free report as provided for in FACTA. Do not be fooled by other similar sounding websites that are likely attempting to sell services or products, or worse, are attempting to obtain your identity information. If you cannot or do not wish to use the internet to obtain your report, you can also request a report by phone at 1-877-322-8228, or by mail using the form which is available at the above website. Your credit report will not contain your credit score, but might identify sources where you can request a credit score for a fee.
If you have any questions about your consumer rights or concerns about your particular situation, please contact one of the attorneys at Hamburg, Rubin, Mullin, Maxwell & Lupin, P.C.
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