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Debt Verification – How to Protect Yourself

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Scam Report – Free Credit Report Dot Com

Like a lot of scams, this one may not be illegal, but I would argue that FreeCreditReport.com, which advertises “free” credit reporting, is deceptively marketed and designed to take advantage of people who are worried about their credit scores.

The Product: Freecreditreport.com

First, what is the product sold by the company? It is monitoring of your credit report created by Experion, including alerts warning you of new information which might harm your score. Since Experion is just one of the three main credit reporting agencies, and since these agencies may report different information on your report, the product is of very limited utility.

Second, there’s nothing free about this “free” credit reporting “service.” You can sign up for a trial offer of seven days. It costs a buck and gives you pretty much what you could get for free if you followed links provided by the government. Credit agencies are required to give you a free credit report once a year. At the end of the seven-day “trial” period (but the service may be inactive for the first two of those days), if you forget to cancel the service, they’ll be billing you for $16.95 per month until you do cancel.

Why It’s a Scam

I believe that setting up and heavily advertising something as free when it isn’t free is deceptive marketing. A trial period of only seven days – two days of which don’t even work – is clearly designed to trap and rip off people who aren’t on their toes. And it isn’t even free.

Maybe most important of all is the whole service anyway. To suggest that constantly monitoring one credit bureau is enough is false because the credit bureaus can have different information and you would need to check all three. Ironically, it is also true that getting your credit report every month is also much more than you need – you won’t need your report nearly that often if you are in process of repairing your report (as i suggest how to do in this month’s Life after Litigation article). The process moves much more slowly than that.So your actual need of the product is very limited. The service costs far more than it is worth in my opinion.

And finally, the who marketing of the service is designed to create impulse buys. The ads raise the prospect of identity theft or sudden action by credit bureaus and offer FreeCreditReport.com as some sort of solution. It would not in fact help much with either of these problems. Simply knowing that you’ve suffered identity theft or negative credit reports is only the small tip of the iceberg in protecting your rights.

Rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act

You’ve heard about having rights to a fair credit report. Here, in plain English, is a list and explanation of your most important rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

The Importance of Credit Reports

Our country runs on credit and credit information and the credit reporting behind them. Of course there are the obvious uses of credit to purchase things, but as more and more people are finding out, credit reports are used for much more than that – they often impact employment decisions, housing decisions and rates, business equipment lease rates, and insurance availability and price, among other things. Bad credit has a high price in so many ways.

Credit Reporting Network

As important as all the interests affected by it are, the credit reporting network (the businesses which create and publish your credit information) is a vast and largely faceless bureaucracy. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) was designed to create some accountability in this network and protect consumers from some of its abuses. The FCRA was designed to safeguard the accuracy, fairness and privacy of information in the files of consumers held by the reporting agencies.

Different Kinds of Credit Reporting Agencies

There are many different kinds of consumer reporting agencies – almost everybody knows about the credit bureaus, of course, and there are also specialty agencies that sell information about check writing histories, medical records and rental history records. The FCRA was directed primarily at these agencies, rather than the creditors or companies with which you normally do business.

Here is a partial list of your major rights under the FCRA.

This isn’t a complete, exact replication of your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. As with most important laws, the exact rights and their limits change as courts interpret the laws. But this will give you an accurate overview – a place to start.

Access to Your Credit Report Limited

A consumer reporting agency may provide information about you only to people with a valid need – considering an application with a creditor, insurer, employer, landlord, or other business. The FCRA specifies those with a valid need for the information. And in most cases you must give your consent before the information is obtained or used.

Rights When Credit Information Used Against You

Anyone who uses a credit report or another type of consumer report to deny an application for credit, insurance, or employment – or to take other adverse actions against you – must tell you, and must give you the name, address and phone number of the agency that provided the information. You are entitled to a free copy of that report.

Right to Find out What Is in Your File.

You can find out all the information about you in the files of a consumer reporting agency. You must be offered a free disclosure if:

  • A person has taken adverse action against you because of information in your credit report;
  • You place a fraud alert in your file as a victim of identity theft;
  • Your file contains inaccurate information as a result of fraud;
  • certain other reasons.

All consumers will be entitled to one free disclosure every 12 months upon request from each nationwide credit bureau and from nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies.

Right to Dispute and Correct Information

If you identify information in your file that is incomplete or inaccurate and report it to the consumer reporting agency, the agency must conduct a “reasonable” investigation, and it must report the information as disputed. If it is unable to verify the information after investigation, the agency must remove or correct the entry.

For practical reasons, this provision may actually provide more important rights against the businesses that report credit events (the debt collector reporting a debt as unpaid, for example) than against the reporting bureaus.

Time Limits for negative information.

In most cases, a consumer reporting agency may not report negative information that is more than seven years old, or bankruptcies that are more than 10 years old.

What the Codes Mean on Credit Report

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