June 18th, 2013
Allison here. While social media sites are certainly a great way to stay in touch with friends and family, they do pose some privacy risks, many of which we have discussed before. However, one social media site we have not discussed very often in LinkedIn. In looking over my own profile while talking to a friend, I discovered a little feature that can pose privacy and id theft concerns. Let’s take a look.
LinkedIn is one of the only social networks (if not the only social network) that allows you to download the information of your contacts. When you export your connections, you can download the profile information for every single one of your connections, and upload it to Microsoft Outlook or Yahoo Mail. The LinkedIn export feature only works on basic information like name, email, company, and job title (the things everyone has on their LinkedIn profile). However, if your profile is more detailed, id thieves can use the exported information with the other information contained in your profile, such as manager’s name, assistant’s name, birthday, and home address. I only found out about this option through a friend, and it’s a little tough to find on the Connections page, so it’s possible many people don’t know that you are even able to download or export this information.
What does this mean for your privacy?
The problem this feature poses is that many people aren’t very selective about who they choose to connect with on LinkedIn, as they simply want a large network of connections. Yes, it’s a professional network and only connections can see your profile, but connecting with someone you don’t know very well could be an issue. At the very least, you could end up on a few email lists and receive marketing messages you don’t want if marketers and advertisers choose to download your information. At worst, depending on how much information you have on your LinkedIn profile, you could be putting yourself at risk for id theft, spam messages, and other scams. To protect against any of these scenarios, it’s always a good idea to be selective about the people you connect with on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn may be safer than most sites since only the people you connect with can see your full profile, and the professional purpose may encourage networking with people you wouldn’t on other sites. However, be mindful of the information you have on LinkedIn, and who you connect with as well.
May 22nd, 2013
Allison here. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution reads:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
However, it should be known that online data (information, documents, files etc.) that are stored on the cloud arenot protected the “unreasonable search and seizure” clause. U.S law has previously ruled that the Fourth Amendment only applies to data and property in your physical possession. So, your hard drive is protected, but anything stored on the cloud isn’t.
What Does this Mean for Email?
The previous example referred to files and information stored on the cloud through programs like Box.net, Dropbox, and Apple’s iCloud. However, email is a very different beast because it is rarely stored on a hard drive but wouldn’t be found in your DropBox either. Although the Supreme Court has not ruled for either, a bill is currently in motion to amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. The new bill would essentially apply the Fourth Amendment to email, where law enforcement would need a warrant to access emails stored on servers. Big companies, such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Yahoo, are already requiring warrants to access their servers.
We are in a time where more and more data is being stored electronically, whether on the cloud or on hard drives and servers. However, the laws have been slow to react to the new technological age we are in. It will take time for the laws to adjust to privacy concerns that these new methods of data storage create, but we will keep you updated about any changes as they come up.
May 15th, 2013
Jackie here. When you head to the store, what information are you sharing? Once upon a time, a big privacy worry was getting your name on a marketing database, but now retailers can track your every move. This isn’t just online. Behavioral tracking is a common occurrence with both online retailers and brick and mortar stores. Where do we draw the line between a retailer’s right to learn about their customers and the consumer’s right to privacy?
What Information Are Retailers Really Gathering?
We all know that retailers are gathering information about their consumers. In fact, many of us are willing to share this information in exchange for a discount of some sort (think loyalty cards). While we know tracking is happening, few of us probably realize the extent to which we’re being observed when we shop. This article from Consumer Reports sheds some light on tactics many retailers use to track consumers in retail store fronts. Here are a few of the methods they may use:
• Video Cameras- Many big name stores are using video to track their shoppers. I’m not talking about a single video camera focused on the entrance of the store, but rather hidden cameras that can observe what brands you look at, for how long, and what you end up purchasing. These cameras may capture facial images and use facial recognition to create a unique profile of each shopper’s specific habits. Some stores even use cameras to capture license plate information of shoppers as they head into the store.
• Wi-Fi Tracking- Stores are also using Wi-Fi and cell phone signals to track their shoppers. When you connect your smartphone to a store’s Wi-Fi network, they may be able to monitor what you’re looking at online including price comparisons between the store you’re at and their competitors. They can also use Wi-Fi to track movements throughout the store.
• Targeted Advertising- Facial recognition technology can be used to custom tailor ads to each shopper based on age, mood, or ethnicity.
Online retailers are gathering information as well. They use tactics like cookies to track your movements across their site or even across the internet. This article on our blog explains how visiting just a few sites can lead to hundreds of data companies monitoring your movements. Online rewards programs often provide a discount for users that start their shopping on their site, allowing them to gather information about your purchases. Your unique IP address, account log-ins, and other information help to identify users across the web, allowing data companies to compile extensive profiles of each internet user.
If you think you aren’t being tracked, think again. Whether you shop online or off, your movements are being watched. You can read some great articles on the topic here, here and here. Whether you like the benefits afforded by retailer tracking or worry about the amount of data you’re disclosing, this topic is certainly one that carries a heated debate. What do you think? Have retailers gone too far or is consumer tracking an important part of being able to provide services to shoppers?
February 25th, 2013
Allison here. Your salary is one of the last few bits of personal information that’s considered taboo to discuss with others. You probably don’t talk about it with most people, especially not at work or with coworkers. Most of the time, this information is not even posted on job openings, and is considered to be incredibly private. So, how would you feel knowing that Equifax has the salary and employment records of more than 1/3 of U.S adults? How would you feel if Equifax got that information directly, and willingly, from the company you work for?
Here’s the kicker: although it may feel like an immense privacy breach, it’s perfectly legal.
One third of Americans is a huge chunk of the country, especially considering that debt collectors only call one in 10 Americans every year. While it may be helpful for such a large credit agency to know the salary of a person who may be in debt, chances are this does nothing to ease the feeling that a credit agency should not have access to this information without your consent.
How Did This Happen?
Many employers, including the federal government and Fortune 500 companies allow Equifax direct access to their employee data so they can always have the latest employment information. In addition, Equifax can easily purchase this information through an Equifax-owned company called The Work Number, an employment and income verification service that does everything from helping hiring managers verify employment history, to helping landlords verify whether someone can afford a house or apartment they applied for. In many cases, they have access to week-by-week paystubs for individuals, and even have other information such as healthcare providers, or whether or not an individual has dental insurance. They have then compiled a database with the salary and personal information of millions of consumers.
Equifax denied to NBC News that salary information is sold to third parties, but did confirm that “pay rate” information is shared with third parties, including “mortgage, auto, and other financial services credit grantors.” They also said that debt collectors and other third parties need permissible grounds to request employment information.
What Can Be Done?
While there is no denying that debt collectors and credit agencies may need salary information to correctly evaluate particular cases, there is some debate as to whether or not consumers should need to give permission, or at least be notified, that salary information about them is going to be shared with third parties. Although Equifax said that “a consumer grants verifiers (creditors) and their assigned debt collectors the right to verify employment should the consumer default on their account,” many people feel there should be a system to gain permission from the employee. At the very least, others argue, there should be some sort of notification for the consumer.
If you’re interested in seeing what information is exists about you, and whether it’s been sold to anyone within the past 24 months, you can visit this page on the TheWorkNumber.com to view your report. While many reports are available online, some consumers may have to fill out a form and mail it to The Work Number in order to receive a report. Because the data is considered a credit report, consumers are entitled to one free report every year.
November 6th, 2012
Allison here. Did you know your car could be an identity theft risk if it is stolen or broken into? People tend to leave things in their cars that have the personal information necessary for someone to steal your car and your identity, or to break into your car for the purpose of stealing your identity.
The Insurance is a Big One: Something that’s in nearly everyone’s, because it’s required by law, is the car insurance paperwork. In nearly everyone’s car, it can be found in the glove compartment. But that paperwork has a lot of information that an identity thief could use to take it, such as your full name, your home address, your date of birth, and perhaps your Social Security number or a payment method. Even if you keep your glove compartment locked, it wouldn’t take much for a thief to pick the lock or to force the compartment open to take the paperwork.
Mobile Devices also a Big Risk: Ever leave your smartphone or tablet in the car to charge? Or maybe leave it in there by accident? Or maybe think you’re only running in to grab something, so you’ll be back to your car in no time? Mobile devices are gold mines of personal information, and it only takes a few minutes and one thief to get in and out with your mobile device. Depending on which scenario of the above applies, it may also take you a while before you realize your device has been stolen.
Don’t Forget Other Valuable Paperwork: Things like pay stubs, mail, bank statements, are all things that could make it easy for a thief, but area also routinely left in cars as someone goes to work or does their errands for the day. The best thing to do is to keep this paperwork on you instead of in your car. That way, if someone breaks into your car or takes it, they can’t use these papers to steal your identity.
What about a Car Accident?: In some states, you are required by to swap personal information in a car accident. This information could include your driver’s license number. Even if you give your information to the police officer instead of the other driver, the driver can still find your personal information by looking at the accident report. Although it’s unlikely that you’ll become a victim of identity theft because of a car accident, it’s important to be mindful of the possibility since you are giving your personal information to a stranger. However, make sure to know the laws in your state so you don’t break the law in order to protect yourself from identity theft.
Overall, it seems like the best course of action is to never leave anything in your car, or at least anything that contains your personal information. Don’t put it past a car thief to steal your identity too, or think that identity thieves only stick with technological methods to do their dirty work.
August 27th, 2012
Allison here, with AllClear ID. When you’re at the doctor’s office or a health clinic, you often have to sign a few health information privacy forms. Most of us probably don’t read what they say, and trust our health provider to do the right thing with our information. So, what do all these forms mean? What laws exist to protect our medical records? What happens if your records or your privacy is breached?
Those forms you sign essentially are an acknowledgement notice. By signing them, you acknowledge that you are aware of the privacy practices of your doctor or health provider. These practices are how they implement the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, the federal law that addresses the security and privacy of health data. It’s important to read these forms the first time you get them, because some forms may actually be a permission form granting your doctor or health provider the ability to share information. You can always request a copy of these forms, or any part of your record, or question how your doctor or health provider will handle your medical information at any time.
HIPAA is the primary law that exists, although states can implement additional laws to increase protections. For example: California law allows patients to sue health providers for privacy violations. This law also covers health care services from providers not typically covered by HIPAA, such as hospices and mobile health care units. This law protects information that concerns health status, provision of health care, or payment of health care that can be linked to an individual, or essentially any part of your medical or payment record.
So in California you can, but what rights do others have in other states if your medical records or privacy is breached?
First of all, you have to determine who disclosed your medical information without your permission. If someone who isn’t a doctor, a hospital, a pharmacy, or someone working with your health plan disclosed your information (like a friend or family member), then HIPAA doesn’t apply. HIPAA also doesn’t protect information that’s disclosed to entities other those listed, such as an online medical forum, or information that’s disclosed as part of a worker’s compensation or disability insurance (even if disclosed by a hospital or doctor).
Second, if your rights have been violated, the most you can do is file a complaint to the privacy officer of the violating entity. All entities under HIPAA are required to have a privacy officer on staff to handle these sorts of requests. If the way the privacy officer handles the situation doesn’t satisfy you, then you can consider complaining to state officials. You can also try and to sue on other grounds, such as breach of contract or malpractice, but you can’t sue based on HIPAA.
Overall, it’s important to read the forms, sign them and to request your records from time to time. Medical identity theft is a growing problem, and it’s important to be aware of what you’re able to and unable to do when it comes to your medical information.
August 11th, 2012
Jackie here, with AllClear ID. Identity theft can wreak havoc on your credit report and finances. While these issues can typically be resolved, it takes time to correct mistakes and remove fraud. This used to be bad news for job hunters, since many employers require a credit check as part of the hiring process. Luckily a new study indicates that fewer employers are using credit reports to screen applicants and those that do are often willing to hire employees with low scores or give the applicant a chance to explain.
The report was issued by the Society of Human Resource Management. In 2012, 53% of employers indicated that they do not use credit reports in their hiring process. In 2010 this number was only 40% and in 2004 it was 39%. The employers most likely to use credit reports are those where a credit report is extremely relevant to the type of work performed– like in law enforcement or banking.
Another positive trend for id theft victim job-seekers is the fact that 91% of employers perform the credit report after a job offer has been made or after a successful interview, not at the beginning of the hiring process. This can give id theft victims a chance to explain the problems in their credit report without being automatically disqualified for a position.
For more information on this report, read this article on McClatchy.
Many states have gotten involved in regulating how and when employers can use credit checks. For example some states have passed laws limiting employers use of credit reports or prohibiting this practice altogether. States with job applicant credit report laws include: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon and Washington. Many other states are considering legislation on this matter.
If you have suffered from identity theft and are searching for a job, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that your next employer might not require a credit check. Keep yourself safe during the job hunt by checking out our past blog post on “Protecting Your Identity While Job Hunting”.
August 8th, 2012
Jackie here, with AllClear ID. Did you know that it may be possible to pay for items using your mobile phones? Mobile payment are becoming increasingly popular and their prevalence is only expected to increase in the coming months and years.
There are several different types of mobile payment options available, each with their own identity theft risks. Let’s take a look at a few:
Mobile Phones with RFID or NFC Technology- Today’s phones can easily be equipped with a chip that can wirelessly transmit your credit card number to a retailer – if they have the right technology. Currently, only about 10% of retailers are making use of this technology, but as prices come down, this could become more common. There are concerns that this type of payment method may not be secure, but manufacturers of this technology believe it may be more secure than credit cards since phones can be shut down remotely if they are stolen. More info on this topic available on USAToday.
Adding Charges to Phone Bills- Another method for making mobile payments involves adding charges directly to a phone bill. You may have seen this in action when buying a ringtone or game through your phone. The charges are automatically added to your bill and you pay directly to your phone provider when your bill comes due. One identity theft concern with this practice is known as “cramming”. It isn’t anything new, but has become a cause for concern again in recent months.
“Cramming” is the practice of adding fraudulent charges to your phone bill. These charges are often small to avoid detection and may look like they belong on your bill. The best way to combat them is to pay attention. Watch for suspicious charges on your phone bill and report them to your phone company should any occur. Some phone providers allow you to opt-out of third party charges so these will never appear on your phone bill. Learn more about this practice on the US Department of Justice Blog.
Other Mobile Payment Options- Other mobile payment options are becoming increasingly available. Phones may be able to store copies of credit information and credit card scanners are available for smart phones. Companies like PayPal are also getting on the game offering consumers the option to pay using their accounts at checkout at brick-and-mortar retailers. We will probably see many new payment methods available in the next few years.
The best way to keep on top of the new options available is to pay attention. Examine your credit card statements carefully. Don’t forget to check your phone bill for suspicious charges. Being aware is one of the best ways to prevent id theft and catch it early on if there is a problem.
May 30th, 2012
Jackie here, with AllClear ID. I have heard over the years that people with common names are more likely to fall victim to identity theft. This news story titled Common Names ID Theft Risk (found on NBC-2 News) is a few years old, but still serves as an excellent example. Is this claim really true? Could the name you are given at birth permanently increase your id theft risk?
The answer is surprisingly, “No”. When it comes to financial identity theft, your basic information like name, phone number, birthdate, address, etc. isn’t important. The main information you need to protect is your Social Security number, bank account information and driver’s license number. Without these, identity thieves aren’t going to have the information they need to commit financial identity theft. Banks realize that names are often quite similar one with another and do not use these to identify their clients; instead they rely on unique identifiers like your SSN. You can protect yourself from identity theft by protecting confidential information whether your name is common like John Smith or unique like Kimae Lawclef.
Having a common name however can make it more confusing to resolve identity theft cases should they occur. If you share a name with an id thief it can be more difficult for law enforcement and creditors to unravel who is who. Common names can also lead to cases of mistaken identity or criminal identity theft. This news story from Chicago involving mistaken identity and background checks shows just how common this problem can be.
Another concern may be parents using the Social Security numbers of their similarly named children to commit id theft. Parents using their child’s id information to open credit accounts isn’t just a problem for those with similar names; it can happen with any names since parents have access to their children’s Social Security number.
Common named folks everywhere can now breathe a sigh of relief. You are still at risk for id theft, but not any more than the rest of us.
May 20th, 2012
Allison here, with AllClear ID. HDTV scams are nothing new. However, there’s a new twist to this scam that involves the online sale of these products from unauthorized sellers. If you’re planning on purchasing an HDTV online, then pay attention. Making such a purchase online isn’t bad, but steps need to be taken to ensure that you aren’t buying from an unauthorized dealer.
- The scam from these unauthorized sellers involves bait-and-switching and aggressive up selling. Here’s what they do: they advertise that they have the HDTV in stock and are selling it for a below-market price, and can ship it to you for free. If you take the bait and place an order, you receive a call the next day confirming the order. Once the salesperson gives you the call, the person starts to aggressively up sell a series of add-ons, including a “3-D” HDMI cable (which isn’t real) for a 3-D TV, a custom stand or wall mount, an extended warranty and/or an “expedited” extra-cost freight.
- If you buy enough add-ons, you’ll get the TV as promised, but it’s likely to be one that is refurbished, scratched, or defective. It won’t be a brand new set. You’ll also find that the add-ons aren’t brand name or high-quality product, but knock offs. If you don’t buy any add-ons, then you might wait weeks for that TV, if you receive it at all. Since these are scammers, it’s also highly unlikely you’ll be able to return the TV or to receive a full refund. What makes the HDTV scam interesting is that for the most part, people are getting the product. Typically with scams, the scammers take the money and run. However, the HDTV scammers are getting away with it by figuratively tying the customers hands behind their back.
There are two ways to check to see if the dealer you are considering is authorized to sell those specific TV brands. First, call the manufacturer of the TV model you are considering (LG, Samsung, Sharp etc.) and ask if the dealer is authorized by them. You could also check the manufacturer’s website for that information. If they aren’t listed, or the customer service department says ‘no’, then don’t purchase from them. Second, take a look at the dealer’s product return policies. Scammers will never accept a return on the TV, or they may charge a restocking fee, deduct the “free” outbound freight from the refund, or all of the above for you to return the TV.
Not all online dealers of HDTVs are bad or unauthorized: big box retailers and Amazon Direct are both just fine. It’s simply a matter of exercising some due diligence and making sure the dealer is doing the right thing with their customers.
April 24th, 2012
Jackie here, with AllClear ID. On Feb 23, 2012 the Obama administration unveiled what they call the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. This document contains suggestions for improving consumer privacy and may be used to shape future privacy legislation. You can read the full text here. It outlines 7 basic privacy rights that they feel each consumer is entitled to receive.
Let’s look at these privacy rights and see how they may relate to identity theft:
- Individual Control- You have a right to your personal data and to decide how this data is used. This component in the Privacy Bill of Rights covers both the responsibility of companies to provide opportunities for control and the responsibility of each and every one of us to control what we share and how we share it. Before sharing information ask yourself if the information you are sharing could put you at risk for id theft. You are on the front line for protecting your own identity.
- Transparency- Many privacy policies are hard to read and understand. This is especially true when accessing privacy policies on mobile devices due to the small screen size. Companies should be open with consumers about how they will use their information. Understanding how your information is used will help you to make better privacy choices and to more effectively protect your identity.
- Respect for Context- Companies need to be open with consumers about how data will be used and need to use the data collected in accordance with consumer understanding. Companies often need to collect your personal information to provide products or services, but they need to respect this information and use it for the purpose you intended. Other uses may be acceptable, but only when the consumer is notified first.
- Security- Notices of privacy violations are all too common in the internet era. Hackers often breach databases and steal personal information which can be later used to perpetrate identity theft. Consumers need to know that the information they are providing will be protected. Identity theft schemes generally need personal data to work and companies that are entrusted with this data should protect it accordingly. If data is breached consumers should informed quickly. This will allow you to take the necessary action to protect your identity after a security breach.
- Access and Accuracy- Data is used for a variety of different purposes from creating personalized online ad content to determining eligibility for employment. Consumers have a right to be able to access their data and correct errors, much like we can already do with our credit scores due to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
- Focused Collection- Consumers have the right to set reasonable limits on the data that is collected and stored by companies. This may open the door to being able to provide non-personal information for certain functions rather than information that ties directly to you. This could help you to have more control over what information you share.
- Accountability- Companies have an obligation to uphold proper privacy practices. If consumer data is shared with third parties, which can be necessary, proper practices should still be enforced to keep information safe. Companies should be accountable to consumers and outside agencies for the way they handle personal data.
The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights will likely be used to shape legislation and set standards for companies regarding data usage and collection in the years to come.
September 8th, 2011
Vanessa here with AllClear ID. You may know by now that you can get your credit reports for free each year from each of the three major credit bureaus. We can thank the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) for that. However, you may not know is that the FCRA also gives you the same free access to other “specialty” reports as well. There are several “consumer-reporting agencies” that don’t create credit reports but do collect your data into what are commonly referred to as “special reports”
These agencies collect information about you from a variety of sources, including:
- Public records of criminal or civil cases
- Your credit history
- Bankruptcy filings
- Companies with which you have an existing or prior business relationship, such as insurance companies or banks
- Your medical information
- Driving records
From this information, the agencies compile reports based on the requirements of targeted users — insurance companies, employers, and landlords – who want to know about you beforethey do business with you.
Unfortunately, most consumers are in the dark about the very existence of specialty consumer reports. Usually they learn about specialty reports only after having been denied a job, an insurance policy, or an apartment rental.
But there a few ways you can see the same information they’re seeing about you:
The most detailed of reports comes from LexisNexis’s ChoicePoint system, where you can get a Full File disclosure , which contains insurance information, employment background checks, criminal records information, and rental history reports.
LexisNexis Risk Solutions also offers Person Reports, which contain a wealth of information about your daily life, including voter registration, possible associates, and property you own. Here’s a sample report.
Chex Systems collects information for a Consumer Reports that includes check cashing information, such as any records of non-sufficient funds fees and returned checks. Financial institutions use these reports to determine whether to let you open money accounts with them. See a sample report.
ISO offers A-PLUS loss-history reports, which contains information about your loss history – essentially your insurance claims – that property and casualty insurance companies use to evaluate how risky you are to cover.
The Medical Information Bureau collects your medical and prescription drug history for their reports, typically used by medical insurance companies to evaluate your risk.
You can get more information about specialty reports from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. As in the case with your credit reports, it’s a good idea to order these specialty reports to make sure the information they have on file for you is accurate and correct. Any inaccurate information could be the result of a clerical error, or worse, identity theft. Regardless, it is important to ensure that you find and rectify any mistakes, as these reports can have a big effect on your life.
August 15th, 2011
Vanessa here from AllClear ID. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FACT Act) is the law that lets you obtain a free credit report from the three credit-reporting agencies every 12 months. You may not know that the FACT Act also lets prospective or current employers gather information about you for background checks. This is a a great tool to know what they’re seeing about you – and to check for signs of possible identity theft.
Some credit reporting agencies and investigation companies compile what is known as “investigative consumer reports,” which are used in limited circumstances such as background checks for employment, insurance policies, and rental housing. These reports do not contain information about your credit record that is obtained directly from a creditor or from you. (For example, it won’t have information about a late payment).
Federal law requires your current or prospective employer to get permission from you to conduct the report. The good news is that if the information in the report is used by the employer to make a negative hiring decision, the employer must give the applicant a copy of the report.
We suggest that you be proactive and get a copy of this report once every 12 months, for free, just like your credit report. You can check it to see if someone else with your name has a work history that may be confused with yours, or may be a result of identity theft. You also have the right to correct and dispute inaccurate information in an investigative report, just as with your credit report.
To order your report, check out the LexisNexis Personal Reports site. Its Full File Disclosure has information about your employment history and other background information LexisNexis collects about you. There’s no guarantee that LexisNexis has a file on you however; as it says on its website, “our files would only contain information on you if LexisNexis provided your Employment History Report to an employer.”
Still, ordering is easy. Call 866-312-8075, Sunday through Friday, to start the automated process. You must give your Social Security number, current street number, zip code and date of birth for the report to be started. Have a pen and paper ready to write down the report tracking number, in case you need to call and follow up. If you’re not comfortable giving information over the phone, you can instead download a report request.
It takes 15 days for the report to be processed and mailed to you, and you can call the 866 number above to check on the status. And if there are errors on your employment history report, call the LexisNexis consumer center at 866-820-8977 to get them corrected. And if they’re indicative of employment related identity theft, and you’re an AllClear ID customer, call us to open up a case.
August 4th, 2011
Vanessa here from AllClear ID. In the first “Did You Know?” about getting your credit reports for free every year, we talked about how easy it is to order and view them online to make sure there are no incidents of credit card fraud or identity theft.
But if you find inaccurate information in your credit report, the hard part comes when you need to correct or erase information. The first step is to contact each credit reporting company that has the false information on the report (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).
Additionally, you also have the right to ask each credit reporting company to place a “fraud alert” in your file to let potential creditors and others know that you may be a victim of identity theft. A fraud alert makes it more difficult for thieves to get credit in your name because it tells creditors to follow certain procedures before opening credit accounts to protect you. The upside: Starting a fraud alert is free of charge, and takes just one phone call or e-mail to complete. You’ll only need to contact one of the three credit reporting companies. As soon as it processes your fraud alert, that company will notify the other two, which then also must place fraud alerts in your file. The downside: It also may delay your ability to obtain credit.
To create a fraud alert, contact:
- Equifax (877-576-5734; www.alerts.equifax.com)
- Experian (888-397-3742; www.experian.com/fraud)
- TransUnion (800-680-7289; www.transunion.com).
An “initial fraud” alert stays in your file for at least 90 days. An “extended” alert stays in your file for seven years. To place either of these alerts, a consumer credit reporting company will require you to provide appropriate proof of your identity, which may include your Social Security number. If you ask for an extended alert, you will have to provide a copy of an identity theft report, a detailed report you have filed with a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency.
Yes, it takes a good amount of effort to fend off fraudsters, but by offering free websites and cutting down on required phone calls, Federal authorities are working to make it easier for you.
July 25th, 2011
Vanessa here with AllClear ID. Federal law states that every consumer is entitled to a free credit report from each of the big three credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) every year. In response, the agencies created the site AnnualCreditReport.com (www.annualcreditreport.com), where you can easily access your yearly reports. You can get a look at your free credit report online, ask for it over the phone or have it mailed to you. Reports sent via mail are processed within 15 days, and take two to three weeks’ delivery time. But it’s quicker and easier to view it immediately online.
Start by entering your state. Then you’ll be prompted to fill out a form with your name, birthdate, Social Security number (which will be encrypted), and addresses where you have lived for the past two years. Select one or more of the three credit reporting agencies you want to see a report from. You’ll be connected to the agency’s site, where your identification will be verified and impersonators are stopped from going any further. For example, Experian asks you questions in multiple-choice format, like giving you a list of four cities and asking which one you’ve lived in. It even asks trick questions, like what bank gave you a home loan in 2010 even if you’ve been a lifelong renter (the correct answer would be “none of the above.”) The next step is to opt for viewing and printing your credit report now, or creating an account to access your report for the next 30 days.
The credit agencies make it pretty easy to read and understand the important parts of your credit report, from your open accounts and balances to inquiries into your file and negative accounts that may be damaging your credit score. If you’re viewing online, click on highlighted terms to drill down into your report and find out what accounts you have open and closed, who’s been asking about you, and what your payment history looks like over the past few years. If you want to save your report on paper or on your computer, you can save and print it out as a PDF file.
One thing to consider is whether you should order all three credit reports at the same time or order one now and others later. The advantage of ordering all three at the same time is that you can compare them all at once. However, then you’re ineligible to receive any free credit report for another 12 months. On the other hand, the advantage of ordering one now and others later, say, one credit report every four months, is that you can keep track of any changes or new information that may show up on your credit report. So it’s up to you to figure out which option works best for you.