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Monitor Your Credit Report--Safely!

   By: Tiffany Sanders, J.D.

It's important for all consumers--and especially those with a bankruptcy or credit problems in the past--to monitor their credit reports. The Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles every consumer to a free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies once each year. Those reports can be obtained directly from the credit reporting agencies, or all three can be ordered at no charge through www.annualcreditreport.com.

Take care, though, in typing in that URL. Or better yet, visit the Federal Trade Commission's "Credit" page at www.ftc.gov and follow the link from there. The FTC warns that companies with similar-sounding URLs may offer free credit reports but actually tie the receipt of those reports to other purchases.

A search for "free credit report" brought up both the authorized site above and the FTC information page, but the top ten results also included four companies providing free credit reports along with automatic enrollment in a credit watch program at prices ranging from $9.95 to $12.95/month. Another company in the top ten results actually offered the three credit reports for sale--for $29.95--but offered a free credit score when you paid for the reports.

The credit score isn't included in the free annual reports, but consumers who are only monitoring their credit reports for accuracy won't really need the score. For those who need scores to plan a major purchase--or who just want to know--those scores can be purchased through www.annualcreditreport.com when a free annual report is requested.

Paying for a report that should be free, or for an unnecessary service, isn't the greatest risk, though. The FTC also warns that companies claiming to provide free credit reports may be using the information gathered for altogether less honorable purposes. At the least dangerous end of the spectrum, they may simply be gathering personal information for sale to marketing companies. However, some such companies have used the claim that they're providing credit reports as a means of obtaining information for identity theft.

The bottom line is that there are only two officially accepted ways to obtain your credit report: go through www.annualcreditreport.com, or order the three reports from each of the three credit reporting agencies individually. The FTC offers more extensive information about credit reports and the companies that provide them on its website.

If you're checking your credit reports--and you should be--make sure that you do the research necessary to know who you're dealing with and exactly what you're signing on for.

(C) 2006, Total Bankruptcy, Inc. This article may be reproduced in its entirety without limitation and without notice, except that any reproduction must include the entire article, which may not be modified in any way, and must include the author bio information contained herein, including the URL and, if published online, a live link to the referencd URL.

Article Source: http://www.friendsofvista.org/articles/article27410.html





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