Free Weekly Credit Report

GET A FREE WEEKLY CREDIT REPORT UNTIL APRIL 2021

Did you know that consumers now have the option to get a FREE weekly credit report until April of 2021? All three credit reporting agencies are offering consumers a free weekly credit report online, until the April 2021 deadline.

With multiple COVID-19 scams going on right now, it’s even more important than ever to remain vigilant. Consumers should be keeping track of what information is contained in their credit report files. Equifax, Experian and Trans Union are the names of the three credit bureaus. Federal Law requires each of them to provide you with a free credit report each year, upon request. So, this new policy of being able to obtain a free weekly credit report is a rare luxury. Take advantage of it.

Free Weekly Credit Report
Check Your Credit Report Often

WHERE TO GO TO GET IT

AnnualCreditReport.com is the only recommended website to visit to request your credit reports. Mandated by Congress, the website must keep track of whether or not you were provided a free credit report (within a year) and from which credit bureau the report was obtained.

It is recommended that consumers check their credit report at least three times a year. This is best accomplished by staggering each request, from a different credit bureau, once every four months. When submitting your credit report request, you can choose which credit reporting agency you want to get the report from.  Therefore, if you stagger the requests, once every four months, you get to keep an eye on things throughout the year, as opposed to all three reports at once.

The information contained in your credit report will not vary much from credit bureau to credit bureau. AnnualCreditReport.com does not charge a fee for the report, but you will have to pay a small fee if you want to know your credit score. To get started – go here

But WHY Should I Bother?

It’s important to check your credit report, not just for mistakes, but also because the Federal Trade Commission has said it is seeing a significant rise in identity theft complaints, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Scammers are professionals and are referred to as “Artists” for a reason. They know how to target their victims with tried-and-true tactics. They also follow the headlines and tailor their scams to current events. By examining your credit report, you can make sure that all open accounts listed are legitimate. Read my article about Coronavirus Scams here

Armed with stolen personal information from data breaches, scammers attempt to apply for new credit cards and loans in your name. So be sure to comb through your credit report to be sure all of the accounts listed were opened by you.

If you find an error in your report or an unauthorized account that you didn’t open, you should send a written dispute to each of the three credit reporting agencies. List any incorrect information and/or any account that appears to be fraudulent. Either file your report on the company website or send the written dispute by certified mail.

DETERRENT – PLACE A CREDIT FREEZE

If you don’t plan to open any new lines of credit in the next year, it’s a good idea to place a Credit Freeze with all three credit bureaus. Placing a credit freeze is one of the best ways to protect yourself from criminals. The credit freeze locks out the bad guys and prevents them from applying for new credit in your name. The process is FREE, but you’ll have to contact each credit bureau individually and request they place the credit freeze on your file.  To learn more about Credit Freezes, read a couple of my prior articles on this topic here and here

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) websites contain extensive information about credit reports, your rights and the laws that guarantee these rights. You can learn more about your free reports at FTC here  and the CFPB here

With everything else going on in the world right now, don’t add fighting identity theft or a damaged credit score to the list. Take advantage of being able keep a close eye on things, by getting your free weekly credit report.

ROBOCALLS AND PHONE SCAMS

The US Senate and the FCC has finally taken up the battle against Robocalls and Phone Scams. This federal intervention should provide much needed relief to consumers. Estimates of robocalls and phone scams have grown from 29% of all calls in 2018 to as much as 45% of all phone calls in 2019.

THE TRACED ACT

In May the US Senate approved the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrance (TRACED) Act by a 97-1 vote.  Don’t you just love how they come up with these nifty names?  Also, I wonder which Senator was the only one who didn’t think this legislation should be passed. The TRACED Act grants the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stepped-up enforcement power to levy heavy penalties and fines against violators.

Additionally, the FCC voted unanimously to finally grant telecommunications companies the authority to use technology to proactively identify and block Robocallers.  A summit was held in July with carriers to identify a framework for implementing these new guidelines. The FCC says it is committed to pursuing “aggressive enforcement action” against Robocallers.

Robocalls and Phone Scams
STOP CALLING ME!!!

MOST ALL ROBOCALLS ARE ILLEGAL

Robocallers often place their calls using internet technology that hides their location. When these calls come in, your Caller ID usually displays a “spoofed” (fake) phone number. Tens of millions of these calls are blasted out each day. Most robocalls and phone scams are automated voice messages.

Industry stakeholders are working to implement a caller ID authentication system. Once implemented, it should help the accuracy of caller ID information and help consumers determine which calls are authenticated.

EXAMPLES OF 2 NEW ROBOCALL TACTICS

‘Neighborhood Spoofing’ and the ‘One Ring Scam’ are two of the newest tactics being used to get you to pick up or call back. Neighborhood Spoofing is when a fraudster alters their phone # to look like a phone number with the same area code as yours. The One Ring Scam involves a Robocaller hanging up after only one phone ring, hoping you’ll be curious enough to call back.

THWART ROBOCALLS AND PHONE SCAMS

  • Don’t Engage: Don’t pick up if it’s a number you don’t recognize. Let it go to voicemail.
  • Don’t Answer: Don’t pick up or return any calls you don’t recognize
  • Don’t Encourage Them: If you are instructed to press a “key” to be taken off their list or to speak to an operator you are, in essence, logging your number as a working number. You will be targeted for even more annoying calls. Hang up without pressing any keys!
  • Block Them: Block Robocall phone numbers on your phone, but realize that telemarketers change phone numbers often.
  • Use Technology: Use call blocking options for your cellphone
  • List: Add your number on the Do Not Call Registry  If your number is already registered and you still get unwanted calls, report them  to help expose and catch these fraudulent callers.
  • Forward: SPAM text messages to 7726 (or SPAM)
  • Report: File a Complaint to help investigators detect and track patterns in Robocalls. Call the Federal Trade Commission at 888-382-1222.

Read my prior article about Robocalls here.

FCC Consumer Resources

EQUIFAX DATA BREACH – 1 YEAR ANNIVERSARY

Equifax Data Breach – one year later     (PART ONE)

It’s been about a year since the Equifax Data Breach was announced. It was one of the largest data breaches in U.S. history. Their negligence resulted in hackers stealing the social security numbers and other sensitive information of 148 million Americans. What has happened since?

Equifax Data Breach
GUARD YOUR NUMBER

Equifax is one of three major credit reporting agencies. Their data files contain highly sensitive information on millions of us. Any company responsible for collecting sensitive data should be required to take any and all precautions necessary to protect that information from criminals. The Equifax data breach proved that they failed miserably! As with so many prior breaches, this one was entirely preventable.

The scope of this massive breach should have shocked Washington to enact sweeping reforms. You would think that if the social security numbers of over half the adult population of the U.S. were exposed, that Congress would take appropriate action to fix the problem. So what did Congress do to punish Equifax and protect its citizens from future calamities?

Well – One year later, not much has changed

At first, there were Congressional hearings where discussions focused on setting new Federal standards for how companies like Equifax secure data.

Investigators looking into how the breach occurred discussed imposing a penalty for Equifax’s failure to timely patch the vulnerability hackers exploited to steal their data.

A national breach notification law was discussed that would require a time frame wherein companies must notify the public once personal info is stolen from a data breach.

BOTH BILLS PETERED OUT! 

Why? “Regulation is tough in this political climate,” said Tom Gann, the chief public policy officer at McAfee.  Congress was too busy focusing on another more pressing cyber-security issue – Russian interference in our elections. Congress can’t seem to focus on more than one cyber-security issue at a time.

Equifax Data Breach
Are You Angry Yet?

The government’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently reported that the Equifax investigation is ongoing.

Michelle Richardson, director of the Privacy and Data Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) says she is still optimistic about Equifax-type legislation in the new Congress.

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE

States like New York and California have since put their own protection regulations in place and 48 State Attorneys General are investigating the firm. Equifax also faces more than 240 class action lawsuits.

The FTC is also examining the Equifax data breach, which may result in Equifax facing large financial penalties. In a prior 2012 settlement with the FTC, Equifax was slapped with a $393,000 penalty.

Additionally, the Equifax breach did at least cause a spike in the number of financial firms that have since beefed up their investment in better cybersecurity.

You can read my original article about the Equifax Data Breach here

In PART TWO of my article, I will give you tips on things you can do to protect yourself. So stay tuned…

ROBOCALLS Telemarketing Phone Calls

ABOUT THOSE PESKY ROBOCALLS

Robocalls are designed to bait you into giving up your personal or financial information. Telemarketing fraud often begins with a Robocall. Unwanted calls are more than a mere annoyance – they are an invasion of privacy and a breeding ground for fraud and identity theft.

Robocalls broke a national record in March of this year (2018). Youmail.com reports that 3.15 billion Robocalls were placed in just the month of March alone. This is a 15% increase from the month before. This increase was driven by a big jump in telemarketing (up 19%) and scam calls (up 13%).

Consumer Reports estimates that Americans lose $350 million a year to scams involving Robocalls. Using today’s technology, tens of millions of Robocalls can be blasted out each day. We’ve all received these telemarketing pitches – like ‘Rachel from Cardholder Services’ or ‘Microsoft’ Imposters calling to warn you that you have a computer virus.

Robocalls
File a complaint with the FTC

MOST ROBOCALLS ARE ILLEGAL!

Only about 10% of Robocalls are actually legal and useful. Airlines can call to give flight updates. Schools can call to alert parents about closures. Doctors can call about appointment reminders. Also, non-profits, political and charitable organizations are allowed to call you too. Just beware of imposters!

Robocalls are usually autodialed or pre-recorded telemarketing calls. The scammers usually don’t know who they are calling and simply ignore the Do-Not-Call List. They oftentimes use prefixes that are the same area code that you live in and even use a phone number similar to yours – in the hopes that you’ll pick up the phone.

Don’t  believe what you see on Caller ID!

When these calls come in, your Caller ID usually displays “spoofed” (fake) phone numbers and/or “spoofed” names of legitimate organizations – like the IRS or a bank, or utility company.  Or, the Caller ID may show as “Unknown”. Robocallers often place their calls using internet technology that hides their location. From here on, you must never rely on what your Caller ID displays on your phone.

Robocalls Aren’t Going Away

Follow these tips to protect yourself from those pesky calls:

  • Don’t Encourage Them: If you are instructed to press a “key” to be taken off their list or to speak to an operator you are, in essence, logging your number as a working number. You will be targeted for even more annoying calls. Hang up without pressing any keys!
  • Don’t Engage: Don’t pick up if it’s a number you don’t recognize. Let it go to voicemail.
  • Block Robocall Numbers: Try contacting your phone service provider, but don’t pay extra for this type of service – since telemarketers change phone numbers often.
  • Forward any SPAM text messages to 7726 (or SPAM)
  • File a Complaint: This helps investigators detect & track patterns in Robocalls. Although most Caller IDs display numbers that are spoofed, report them anyway by calling the Federal Trade Commission at 888-382-1222 or go to ftc.gov/complaint
  • Sign the petition: at Consumers Union to help pressure Telephone Carriers to offer free call-blocking technology by going to: endrobocalls.org

 

ADDITIONALLY –  There’s an App for that

There are a number of apps that are free or for a small fee, will help prevent most, but not all Robocalls.

Here is the link for Android Phones: https://www.ctia.org/consumer-tips/robocalls/android-robocall-blocking

Here is the link for iPhones: https://www.ctia.org/consumer-tips/robocalls/ios-robocall-blocking

Here is a link for Landlines, that offers call blocking for free: https://www.nomorobo.com/

Interesting Factoids:

iPhone users get more robocalls than Android users. They received 29% more Robocalls than Android users, during the month of March. Also, AT&T users get more Robocalls than Verizon users.

Crooks who commit phone fraud are clever. They have to be – as this is the way they make their living. So, don’t engage with them. Instead – ALWAYS HANG UP ON ROBOCALLS OR LET YOUR CALLS GO TO VOICEMAIL!