Are you ready for the Credit Card Act of 2009?


With the enactment of The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, commonly referred to as The Credit Card Act of 2009, several changes have occurred that will dramatically impact how Americans utilize their credit cards, debit cards, and gift cards. Are you aware of your rights and protections under the new law?

Your credit, debit, and gift cards have become more consumer-friendly. The Credit Card Act of 2009 authorized the Federal Reserve to establish new rules regulating the credit card industry. Several provisions took effect on Feb. 22, including 45 days required notice for interest rate hikes, restrictions on obtaining a credit card for those under age 21, and the elimination of double cycle billing.

Effective 12:01 a.m. today, the final batch of regulations became effective. For the most part, these new rules protect consumers from unreasonable penalty fees and excessive interest rates. These rules are particularly important if you are struggling with high credit card debt.

Interest rates

For those consumers who carry a balance on their credit cards from month to month, having low interest cards can save a lot of money. Unfortunately, many companies have gone in the opposite direction, substantially raising rates for millions of consumers on their credit cards. The new rules will help in several aspects.

• If a company increases the annual percentage rate on your credit card, they must explain why. While this rule will not prevent a rate increase, a reason must be provided for said increase (such as a lower credit score), and consumers will have an opportunity to address the issue.

• If a company increases your credit card interest rate, they must re-evaluate that increase every six months. If the reason for said increase has been resolved, they must reduce your interest rate to the former level within 45 days of completing a reevaluation. This rule is particularly important to consumers who have seen their interest rates skyrocket due to lower credit scores.

Penalty fees

Credit card companies have become known for excessive fees and charges. From late payment fees to over-the-limit charges, credit card fees have become a consumer nuisance. While the new regulations will not eliminate these fees, they should reduce them.

Credit card companies can no longer charge a penalty fee in excess of $25 in most instances. There are some limited exceptions to this rule. For example, if the company can substantiate costs in excess of $25 as a result of said late payment, the penalty may exceed $25. Moreover, if you were delinquent in the last six months and pay late again, the penalty may be increased to $35.

• Consumers cannot be charged a late payment penalty in excess of your minimum payment. This avoids the practice of companies adding a $39 late payment penalty because you were a few days late on a $10 minimum payment.

• Credit card companies can no longer charge a fee for dormant accounts. Called an inactivity fee, some companies assess a fee if you did not use the card enough. The new rules eliminate this practice.

• Credit card issuers cannot charge more than one penalty fee for each transaction or event that gives rise to said fee. For example, if you were late with a payment and the penalty fee caused your account to exceed its credit limit, companies cannot assess an over-the-limit charge in addition to the late penalty fee. The new regulations put an end to this double-penalty practice.

Only time will tell how well these regulations work at protecting consumers. In some cases, new regulations cause companies to find alternate ways to raise revenue, such as increasing annual fees or reducing other benefits. For now, though, consumers may get some relief from excessive credit card fees and rising interest rates.

To learn more about The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 and your rights and protections under the new law, visit http://www.tinyurl.com/thecreditreport.

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

Beware of Credit Repair Scams


You have heard many synonyms or phrases that mean the same thing in the realm of bad credit.  The terms credit repair, credit restoration or credit rehabilitation are completely synonymous. Those with bad credit histories cannot afford to ignore the potential benefits of credit repair.

In today’s economy, a strong FICO (Fair Isaac) score is more important than ever.  Approximately 78% of credit profiles in the United States contain some sort of error or omission materially impacting credit worthiness.  Absent self-help and the “do-it-yourself” approach, a consumer can hire a credit repair company in the restoration of their good name and reputation within the community.

Credit repair companies are governed by a federal law known as the Credit Repair Organizations Act.  This law requires a credit service organization fulfill certain obligations to a consumer.  You should avoid any credit repair service that fails to follow the following rules:

  1. You are not provided with a copy of the “Consumer Credit File Rights Under State and Federal Law” advising of your right to obtain a credit report directly from Equifax, Experian and Trans Union as well as “self-help” opportunities available under the law.
  2. You are not provided a copy of the service contract for review and contemplation prior to execution.
  3. The service contract does not contain the following information: (a) the amount being charged; (b) full details about the services to be performed; (c) the start and end date by which services will be performed; (d) the full name and business address of the credit repair company; (e) a statement advising that the service contract can be cancelled within three business days.

         You are requested to pre-pay before the credit repair services have actually been performed.

         The company promises to remove accurately reported information from your credit report.

         The company promises to create, or asks you to create, a “new” identity with a new social security number or federal employer identification number (EIN).

         You are requested to execute a document specifically waiving your rights under the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA).

If you are considering a credit repair service, keep in mind there is nothing legally they can do to improve your credit that you cannot do yourself.  Many of these companies promise or guarantee to remove harmful, but accurate, negative information from your credit report.  If the information is wrong or otherwise inaccurate, you have the right to dispute it yourself.  You only need to dispute the inaccurate entry to the credit reporting agency and/or creditor maintaining the record.  However, when the information is truly accurate, you do not have the right to dispute it, nor does a credit repair company.

Although you may not be prosecuted for disputing accurate information on your credit report, you can be prosecuted for fraud if you lie on a credit application.  For example, it is considered fraud to answer “no” that you have never filed bankruptcy when you actually have.  Just because you, or the credit repair company you hired, successfully removed the adverse bankruptcy entry from your credit report does not mean the bankruptcy never existed.

When the “do-it-yourself” approach is not feasible and you decide to hire a credit repair company to restore your good name and reputation within the community, be sure to check them out.  While the majority of credit repair clinics are scams, a few good ones do exist.  Consumers can check out a credit repair company through their state Attorney General at http://www.naag.org, the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.FTC.gov or through the Better Business Bureau at http://www.BBB.org.  In any event, do not allow a credit repair company to get away with scams.  Take action if your rights have been violated.  Report the offending company to your state attorney general, the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau.

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

Guide to Credit Reports, Credit Scores


Attention is focused on new financial regulations enacted as part of the Dodd-Frank Act.

Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission announced final rules requiring creditors to provide consumers’ with a “risk-based pricing notice” when granting credit on less favorable terms than it provides other consumers.

To assist consumer understanding of these new rules, the U.S. Federal Reserve has unveiled an online guide to credit reports.

This straight-forward guide includes information on credit reports and credit scores, how they are utilized in credit granting decisions, unsolicited credit offers, credit repair and how to protect your personal information from fraud.

Released on Wednesday, the “Consumer’s Guide to Credit Reports and Credit Scores” is meant to complement consumer-protection laws that Congress enacted several years ago.

Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, lenders – starting in January – will be required to tell consumers when adverse information on their credit reports is going to result in higher rates and fees for mortgages, credit cards and other loans.

In today’s tough economy, a strong FICO (Fair Isaac) credit score is more important than ever. Studies show that approximately 78 percent of credit profiles in the United States contain some sort of error or omission materially impacting credit worthiness.

As creditors tend to offer favorable terms to consumers with good credit histories and more costly credit to those with poor credit histories, the guide is intended to assist them in disputing negative and/or inaccurate information prior to making an application for credit or employment.

Under the “risk-based pricing” rules, consumers hit with the less favorable credit terms can also obtain a free credit report to check its accuracy.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, as modified by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, consumers are entitled to a free copy of their credit report under a narrow set of circumstances.

If you have been denied credit, goods, benefits, services, insurance, and/or employment, the credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and Trans Union are statutorily mandated to provide a copy free of charge.

Absent these exceptions, consumers are entitled to one free “annual credit report” per year. Credit scores are not included with any of the “free credit reports” provided by the national credit reporting agencies.

Equifax can be contacted at (800) 685-1111 or www.Equifax.com; Experian can be contacted at (888) 397-3742 or www.Experian.com; and Trans Union can be contacted at (800) 916-8800 or www.TransUnion.com.

Be sure to prompt that you were denied credit when requested to do so.

For your free annual credit report, contact the central source at 877-FACT-ACT (877-322-8228) or www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Follow the voice prompts and obtain your credit report for review.

Consumer advocates say additional work is needed to address concerns about credit reports and credit scores. “The main problem is really with credit reports – they’re just plagued with inaccuracies,” said National Consumer Law Center attorney Lauren Saunders. “It’s a nightmare for consumers to get anything fixed.”

Saunders said she is expecting the FTC and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the first agency to be charged with protecting consumers from abusive financial products, to take more action in addressing consumer concerns about credit reports.

Acting as a primer to the uneducated individual, the “Consumer’s Guide to Credit Reports and Credit Scores” advises what they should do if they find errors. In a three-step process, ordering credit reports and reviewing them for errors or inaccuracies; contacting the credit reporting agencies to enter a formal dispute; and, waiting for a response from the CRA’s and/or creditors is explained.

To learn more about the Consumer’s Guide to Credit Reports and Credit Scores, visit www.federalreserve.gov/creditreports. To review Bill Lewis’ entire consumer protection series at the Highlands Today, visit www.williamlewis.us.

Source:  The Credit Report with Bill Lewis – Highlands Today, an edition of the Tampa Tribune – Media General Group.  http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/nov/14/guide-credit-reports-credit-scores/

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

Strategic Foreclosure 101 – Walking Away From Your Home


Many Americans are wondering how to deal with an underwater mortgage in these tough economic times.  Florida has been hit harder by the housing crisis than any other state in the nation. While some can afford to continue making payments on their home, many across the state have been pushed into foreclosure as home values have decreased anywhere from 15 to 55 percent or more.

Aside from a loan modification, we have all heard the terms foreclosure, short-sale, and deed-in-lieu of foreclosure. Each of these terms spells trouble for the homeowner – loss of home, reduced credit score, and negative social stigma. Although lenders in February filed fewer foreclosure actions in Florida compared to a year earlier, a new strategy is on the horizon, an idea coined “strategic foreclosure.”

If you purchased your home at the peak of the real estate market from 2004 to 2006, your value has substantially dropped. Although irrelevant to some borrowers as they can afford the payment and plan on residing in their home for a decade or more, others have simply stopped paying in the hope of forcing a short-sale or reduction in principal.

Should you walk away from your mortgage even if you can afford to pay? Millions of Americans are asking themselves that same question. Some borrowers feel they have a legal, moral, and ethical obligation to make payments notwithstanding a substantial drop in value. With almost half of the residential mortgages in Florida underwater, a growing number of individuals are contemplating walking away from the place they call home.

If you can resolve yourself to possible litigation and a lower credit score for several years, walking away may be a smart business decision. Right now, only a small percentage of borrowers are contemplating this technique. A recent study, though, found that approximately 32 percent of homeowners nationwide would consider walking away from their mortgage if the value of their home continues to decrease.

While “strategic foreclosure” makes perfect economic sense, many homeowners do not choose this course of action out of shame, guilt and fear. Underwater homeowners continue to stress over their mortgage payments to avoid the consequence of foreclosure and a perceived negative social stigma within the community. This is especially so when a borrower has the financial ability to pay.

Although almost 17.4 million homes nationwide are underwater, one must consider the adverse implications of “strategic foreclosure” before walking away. First, and foremost, is the loss of your home. Have you purchased the home across the street at half the amount of your current mortgage? Do you plan on renting? Are you aware that a “strategic foreclosure” will have the same impact on your credit score as a loan modification, judicial foreclosure, short-sale, or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure? Are you aware that you can be sued for any deficiency balance on your home?

“Borrowers who are underwater on their mortgages would be better off financially if they walked away from their homes,” says Scott Kleiman, a foreclosure defense attorney with Kalis & Kleiman. “They don’t because of their moral and ethical obligation to pay their mortgages.”

Borrowers who had a good credit history before they walk away through “strategic foreclosure” can usually rebuild their good name and reputation within a couple of years. In a recent study commissioned by the global information services company Experian, approximately 588,000 borrowers nationwide simply walked away from their homes in 2008. This is up 128 percent over 2007. From all indications, 2010 will be a banner year as the social stigma of foreclosure and simply walking away from your home will have dissolved amid the mortgage meltdown.

Just like former “Beverly Hills 90210” star Brian Austin Green – who has advanced a “strategic foreclosure” strategy in an effort to short-sale his $2 million Hollywood Hills home – you too can ride the wave of the future.

As a homeowner, you can afford to make your mortgage payments but are underwater to the point of no return. As a borrower, the American dream of owning a home is lost as it will maintain negative equity for a decade or more. “Strategic foreclosure” may be the first step toward a short-sale and walking away from yourhome.

http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/mar/14/lc-strategic-foreclosure-101/columns-welewisjr/

William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity. To learn more, tune into “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis,” a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues on AM 1470 WWNN.

Identity Theft Protection is a Waste of Money


Are you one of the 13 million people who purchased “identity theft protection” in 2009?  If so, you wasted your money.  Identity theft protection companies push statistics like “almost 11 million adults were victims of identity theft in 2009” while prodding you to purchase a service that could cost up to $179.00 per year.  What they fail to advise is that identity theft protection does not cover account take-overs, the misuse of debits cards, or the establishment of personal identification (such as a driver license) in your name.

I am happy to report that almost all of the services provided by identity theft protection companies are available at little or no cost.  There is no reason to pay a monthly or yearly fee for something you can do yourself.

REVIEW YOUR CREDIT REPORT

By keeping close tabs on your credit report, you can identify signs of fraud early.  If you find an account not opened by you and have positively identified it as fraudulent, enter a dispute with the credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.  You can obtain a free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com or (877) 322-8228.  When you pay for identity theft protection, this free credit report is one of the “benefits” they tout.

PLACE A 90-DAY INITIAL FRAUD ALERT ON YOUR CREDIT REPORT

Call the credit reporting agencies and request a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit report.  Not only will this trigger a free credit report but will advise potential creditors to investigate any application prior to issuing credit, goods, benefits, services, and/or employment.  Contact Equifax at (800) 525-6285, Experian at (888) 397-3742 and Trans Union at (800) 916-8800.  When you pay for identity theft protection, this fraud alert is one of the “benefits” they tout.

FREEZE YOUR CREDIT REPORT

Identity thieves and creditors are frozen in their tracks without access to your credit report as they will not have access to your credit history.  In Florida, you are entitled to temporarily “freeze” access to your credit profile without cost if you are over 65 years of age or are a verified victim of identity theft.  All others must pay $10.00.  Without access to your credit report, a responsible lender will not issue credit.  When you pay for identity theft protection, a credit report freeze is one of the “benefits” they tout.

STOP UNSOLICITED CREDIT CARD OFFERS

Are you tired of junk mail filling your mail box?  Opting out at www.optoutprescreen.com or (888) 5OPT-OUT will stop most unsolicited pre-approved applications and reduce the incidence of identity theft. Opting-Out refers to the process of removing your name from lists supplied by Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and Innovis to be used for firm (preapproved / prescreened) offers of credit or insurance.  When paying for identity theft protection, opting out is one of the “benefits” they tout.

BUY A CROSS-CUT SHREDDER


“Dumpster diving” is still a very popular method of obtaining credit card applications and supporting documentation.  Purchase a cross-cut shredder that cuts vertically and horizontally, turning sensitive mail into confetti.  If you think a torn up credit card application will be rejected by a credit card company, you have not heard the story of how Chase approved a ripped up application.

While the Credit Card Act of 2009 has mandated a number of changes in relation to “free credit reports,” the area of identity theft protection is an area to watch.  Reduced fees in one area will only mean enhanced fees in another.  There is no reason to pay a monthly or yearly fee for something you can do yourself.

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/mar/07/lc-identity-theft-protection-is-a-waste-of-money/columns-welewisjr/

A Truly Free Credit Report Without Cost or Fee


Have you ever been denied credit, goods, benefits, services, employment and/or insurance? Do you have a problem with “free” credit reports that are often bundled with credit scores and/or credit monitoring services and steep monthly fees? If so, you are not alone.

As part of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (commonly referred to as the Credit Card Act of 2009), advertisements for credit reports will soon require enhanced disclosures to help consumers avoid confusing “free” offers. These offers often require consumers to spend money on credit scores and/or credit monitoring while the “no-strings-attached” credit reports available through the central source at www.AnnualCreditReport.com are truly free to consumers once every 12 months

Effective April 1, 2010, the Federal Trade Commission’s Free Credit Reports Rule will require a prominent and enhanced disclosure in advertisements for “free” credit reports. Specifically, all Web sites offering “free” credit reports must include – across the top of any page that mentions them – a disclosure stating:

THIS NOTICE IS REQUIRED BY LAW. Read more at FTC.GOV You have the right to a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com or 877-322-8228, the only authorized source under federal law.

The Web site disclosure must include a clickable button to “Take me to the authorized source” at www.AnnualCreditReport.com as well as clickable links to the Federal Trade Commission Web site at www.ftc.gov.

Under recent legislation, the Credit Card Act of 2009 required the Federal Trade Commission to issue a rule to prevent deceptive marketing of “free” credit reports. Specifically, the Act requires that certain advertisements for “free” credit reports include prominent disclosures designed to prevent consumers from confusing these so-called “free” offers with the federally mandated “free” annual credit reports available through the “centralized source,” which is www.AnnualCreditReport.com.

The Federal Trade Commission proposed amending the rule in late 2009 and received more than a thousand comments from consumers, consumer reporting agencies, consumer report resellers, business and trade organizations, state attorneys general, consumer advocates, law firms, members of Congress, and academics. Most of these comments were in favor of change and enhanced disclosure requirements.

The amended rule also restricts practices that might mislead or confuse consumers as they attempt to obtain their federally mandated “free” annual credit report. The consumer reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion will now be required to delay the advertising of any products and/or services at the central source until the consumer has successfully obtained their “free” annual credit report.

Except for the wording of the disclosures for television and radio advertisements, which takes effect on Sept. 1, 2010, the new rule is effective April 1, 2010. The Federal Trade Commission will monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the amended rule as well as the required disclosures and may consider additional changes as deemed necessary in the normal course of affairs.

Information contained in credit reports may determine whether a consumer can obtain credit, goods, benefits, services, employment and/or insurance. As such, it is important that consumers review their credit reports and correct any information that is inaccurate, erroneous, obsolete, and/or fraudulent. Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, Equifax, Experian and Trans Union are required to provide consumers with a “free” annual credit report once every 12 months, but only upon request. To learn more about their right to a “free” credit report under federal law, consumers are encouraged to visit the Federal Trade Commission website at http://www.ftc.gov/freereports.

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/feb/28/lc-a-truly-free-credit-report-without-cost-or-fee/columns-welewisjr/

Countdown to Credit Card Reform


In an ideal world, one would not worry about the recession, high unemployment rates, the foreclosure epidemic and the never ending debt load carried by the average American. In what has been referred to as the “Year of the Consumer,” 2010 has a lot to offer in federally mandated “changes” in the credit card industry.

With only eight days until enactment of The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, commonly known as The Credit Card Act of 2009, several changes are occurring that will have an impact on how Americans utilize their credit cards, debit cards, and gift cards. Are you aware of your rights and protections under the new law?

Consumer protection

Interest rate increases will be banned except when a cardholder is more than 60 days delinquent in paying a credit card bill.

The credit card issuer must review a cardholder’s account six months after increasing an interest rate and return the annual percentage rate to the prior lower level if all payments have been made on time.

An interest rate cannot be increased within the first 12 months of account existence and promotional rates must have a minimum of six months duration.

Advance notice of 45 days must be provided to a cardholder prior to changes in credit card terms and conditions. This includes any reward or benefit structure of a credit card.

The practice commonly known as universal default and double-cycle billing are no longer allowed.

Statements must be mailed at least 21 days before the payment due date.

Payments must be credited as on-time if received by 5 p.m. on the due date. All due dates that occur on a weekend or holiday are extended until the next business day.

Over-limit fees are now prohibited unless a cardholder specifically opts to allow processing of a transaction rather than being denied at a point of sale.

Enhanced consumer disclosures

A clear disclosure on how long it would take to pay off a credit card balance if cardholder makes only the minimum payment each month must be provided.

A clear disclosure on the total cost of interest and principal payments if a cardholder makes only the minimum payment each month must be provided.

Late payment deadline or postmark due dates are required to be clearly shown and provided to cardholders.

Protection of young consumers

Credit cards can no longer be issued to individuals under 21 unless they have an adult co-signer or prove payment ability through a reasonable income.

All college students must obtain permission from the adult co-signer to increase a credit limit on joint accounts they hold with those individuals.

Individuals under the age of 21 will now be protected from pre-screened credit card offers unless they specifically opt-in for said offers.

Gift cards

Gift cards are now required to remain active for at least five years from the day of their initial activation.

Dormancy or inactivity fees may no longer be imposed on gift cards unless there has been no activity in a 12-month period.

Dormancy or inactivity fees must be clearly disclosed to gift card buyers upon purchase.

Should a gift card expire after 5 years, the terms of expiration must be clearly disclosed to gift card buyers upon purchase.

To learn more about The Credit Card Act of 2009 and your rights and protections under the new law, visit www.tinyurl.com/thecreditreport

William E. Lewis Jr. is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/feb/14/countdown-credit-card-reform/columns-welewisjr/

Protect Your Child From Identity Theft


Child identity theft occurs when a child’s identity is used by another person for the imposter’s personal gain. The perpetrator may be a family member or someone known by the family. It could also be a stranger who purposely targets children because of the lengthy time between the theft of the information and the discovery of the crime.  The Federal Trade Commission says child identity theft has doubled since 2006 with 21,344 cases reported in 2008.  In this tough economic time, it has been predicted that child identity theft will again double in 2010.

Children are often easy targets because thieves get an eight to ten year head start on them. In fact, most children who have had their identities stolen are not aware of it until they apply for credit, college, or employment.  Some of these child identity theft cases involve split families where one of the parents is the perpetrator with the crime being exposed by the other, unoffending parent. Discovery often comes:

  • When attempting to open a savings/checking account or college fund. In this scenario, the unoffending parent discovers that there is already an account under the child’s social security number or that the account is denied as a result of worthless checks on file at ChexSystems;
  • When numerous pre-approved credit offers come in the mail bearing the name of the child;
  • When credit cards, checks, invoices or bank statements not opened by an unoffending parent as a joint holder are received bearing the name of the child;
  • When collection agencies call and/or send letters about accounts not opened by the child;
  • When a child is denied a driver’s license because another individual has a license with their social security number. The imposter may even have accumulated traffic citations in the child’s name;
  • While going through papers during a divorce proceeding or while straightening up the house (Parental identity theft);
  • When a law enforcement officer knocks at your door with a warrant for the arrest of your child.

There are instances that may appear to be identity theft but are not. Receiving a pre-approved credit card offer might upset you as a parent but may only be the pitch of a potential creditor because you opened an account or college fund in your child’s name. A quick check of credit reports will help sort out the truth. Currently, all three credit reporting agencies have automated systems. You should contact them semi-annually to request a credit report on your children. If you are advised that no credit report exists, your child is safe for the time being.  Call Equifax at (800) 685-1111; Experian at (888) 397-3742; and Trans Union at (800) 916-8800.

A common misconception is that creditors and credit reporting agencies have a method of verification when it comes to the age and identity of an applicant.  Since most creditors rely strictly upon a written application when rendering a credit granting decision and the age of an individual becomes “official” with a credit reporting agency upon the first application for credit, said reliance can be fatal in relation to identity theft.

If your child becomes a victim of identity theft, you must immediately file a police report.  Federal law mandates that credit reporting agencies investigate and correct all identity theft issues.  Nevertheless, it all starts with a properly filed police report.  Without one, creditors, collection agencies, and/or credit reporting agencies are not required to act upon your complaint.

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/feb/21/lc-protect-your-child-from-identity-theft/columns-welewisjr/