Protect Yourself From Credit Repair Scams


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With an improved economy and real estate prices on the rise, your good name and reputation are more important than ever when applying for new credit cards, an automobile, rental property or home mortgage. Many creditors have tightened their lending guidelines, effectively barring millions of Americans from borrowing money.

Long gone are the days of obtaining credit, goods, benefits, services and/or employment with a 620 FICO score. In most instances, a borrower will be denied if they maintain a credit score lower than 740. Even those with high credit scores have experienced reduced credit lines or closed credit card accounts and equity lines. When an account has not been closed, credit limits have been reduced to the existing balance due.

Mortgage lenders, auto finance companies, credit card issuers, credit unions and traditional banks have all raised the bar. Borrowers with low FICO scores can expect to be denied credit or to pay significantly higher interest rates than those with excellent repayment histories.

With about 52 percent of credit profiles at the Equifax, Experian or TransUnion consumer reporting agencies containing some sort of error or omission materially impacting credit worthiness, some turn to credit repair to remedy low credit scores and issues that prevent them from borrowing money. Absent self-help and the “do-it-yourself” approach, they hire a credit service organization in the restoration of their good name and reputation.

The terms credit repair, credit restoration or credit rehabilitation are somewhat synonymous. Those with bad repayment histories cannot afford to ignore the potential benefits of credit repair. In today’s economy, a strong FICO score is more important than ever.

Beware, though, when hiring a credit repair company.

Most — but not all — credit service organizations specialize in the restoration of consumer credit worthiness as well as issues related to identity. Assuming that the credit repair company is performing within established guidelines, they utilize laws enacted by Congress to dispute negative, erroneous, obsolete and/or fraudulent information contained within your consumer credit profile.

Utilizing the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Billing Act and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, a reputable credit service organization will assist in the submission of disputes electronically, verbally and in writing to the Equifax, Experian and TransUnion consumer reporting agencies. Disputes are also submitted to creditors, collection agencies, and third-party record providers, in addition to state, federal, and local regulatory authorities.

Unlike most credit repair clinics that submit the same written complaint letters monthly, a reputable credit repair company will have devised a strategy whereby disputes are submitted electronically, verbally and in writing over a long period of time to the credit reporting agencies, creditors, collection agencies and third-party record providers reporting negative, inaccurate, obsolete and erroneous information.

Keep in mind that anything a credit repair company can do, you can do yourself for little to no cost. With that said, a reputable credit service organization should have an edge over consumer driven disputes as they will possess the education, knowledge and a source proven method that is generally unknown to the average consumer.

A reputable credit service organization should have a provable track record of results in the modification or removal of erroneous and inaccurate judgments, liens, mortgage foreclosures, bankruptcies, short-sales, student loans, credit inquiries, derogatory accounts and collection agency entries, personal identifiers and other transient data from a consumer’s credit report. Although the credit restoration process can take many months, most individuals should see some results within the first 45 to 60 days.

Credit repair, credit restoration and credit rehabilitation is as legal as pleading “not guilty” in a court of law. One must understand, though, that most credit service organizations are not law firms and that their employees may not be licensed to practice law. As such, even a reputable credit repair company cannot provide legal advice, nor may they represent a consumer before any court or in any legal proceeding. In the event that legal representation is required, the credit repair company should provide an appropriate attorney referral for consultation.

When self-help or the “do-it-yourself” approach is not feasible and you decide to hire a credit repair company to restore your credit, 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 service organization through their state Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.ftc.gov or through the Better Business Bureau at http://www.BBB.org.

How to Beat the Debt Collector with Sample Cease and Desist Letter


Debt collectors are highly motivated to convince debtors to pay the debt because they frequently work on a low base pay plus commission. This business model has created the reputation for bill collection agencies that we know today.

The collector might engage in threatening behavior and harassment. However, like any other business they are governed by laws that prohibit certain abusive practices.

There are three reasons for a debt collector to contact you: your creditor has not received a payment from you within the time frame discussed in the contract; you are a victim of an identity theft meaning someone used your identity to obtain credit and didn’t pay it off; and finally, you might be contacted by collectors who are looking for someone other than you .

When contacted by a collector, take as much information as possible from the caller. Ask for the name of the company, address, the caller name, fax and phone number, amount owned, and the name of the creditor who passed your account to them. Also, tell them you expect to receive a notice in the mail concerning this debt. The last step is very important because you need to have proof of the debt in question in writing.

If you discovered that the debt is not yours, never pay it off simply to get rid of the collector. Also, never ignore the collector either. They will not stop contacting you, and may even file a lawsuit against you. If you are repeatedly being contacted by a collector looking for someone other than you, it may be considered a form of harassment. To stop this you need to send them a letter requesting to cease calls.

If you established that the debt is yours and you don’t feel comfortable dealing with a collector via phone, tell them you want all future correspondence in writing. You need to send this request via a certified mail and request a return receipt. If you want to allow calls only between 5pm and 6pm, tell them about it in the letter. By law collection companies are required to respect your privacy and will have to cease all phone calls to your home, relatives, neighbors, and work.

Once you have their claims in writing it’s easier to seek legal help, and keep records of your correspondence.  Send all your responses to bill collectors via Certified Mail. This way you will have proof of receipt by the addressee.

Remember that the amount they claim you owe is negotiable. You can negotiate the total amount due, number of payments, and the payment deadline. Once you worked out the payment plan, request it in writing.

What a debt collector CANNOT do:

1.) Use deceptive practices. For example, threaten you with arrest or trick you into paying for collection calls.
2.) Use obscene language.
3.) Call you at work after you tell them that your boss does not approve these calls.
4.) Deny you the right to receive a written notice (within five days after your first phone conversation) that would tell you how much you owe and the name of the creditor that says you owe the money. If you do not receive the notice within five days, call the collection agency and ask for its address and fax number. Then, send a letter to the collector noting its failure to send you the required notice. As a minimum, make a note in your file.
5.) Refuse to give its name and the name of the collection company when asked.
6.) Put a debt on your credit report if you file a dispute. It must validate the debt by obtaining a verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment from the creditor before continuing their collection efforts. The results of the investigation must be mailed to you.

SAMPLE CEASE AND DESIST LETTER

The cease and desist letter has legal stature based upon the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act at section 805. You can read it for yourself here. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act applies to both the agency and to attorneys who collect two or more debts per year. This law does not apply to the original creditor. However many original creditors will honor your request to not be called.

Please note that when a consumer debt collector receives a cease and desist letter they may move the account to legal status. This means that if they intend to sue you, the cease and desist letter will prompt them to bring suit immediately. So if there is an alternative way to stop being bothered by their calls, like using an answering machine, I’d suggest that you try it first. If there is no alternative then send the cease and desist letter.

Send the letter via certified mail with a return receipt request. Keep a copy of the letter for your files. The letter may take a couple of weeks to work its way through the collection agency’s system before your number is taken out of their automated dialers. Even after they receive the letter they are allowed (under law) to contact you one time to notify you of their intent.

The below letter is easily personalized by utilizing a word document program. Although not the cease and desist letter currently utilized by Credit Restoration Consultants, it will serve to notify consumer debt collectors of your intent and purpose.  Although protected by copyright, single user permission is granted to individuals in the self help credit restoration process.

 

My Address
My City State and Zip

December 30, 2001

Acme Collection Agency
12345 West Main Street
Any Town, AL 30311

Dear Sir/Madam:

This letter is forwarded to your collection agency reference account number 123456 and the dunning collection notices/calls recently received. Insofar as your agency is a debt collector pursuant to section 803 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you will be treated like one. Therefore, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act – and all of its relevant provisions – will be invoked.

YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED that this is a disputed debt pursuant to section 809 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The specific content of said dispute was recently stated – verbally – to an individual at your agency who refused to provide their name upon request thereof. Pursuant to the FDCPA, you are prohibited from dunning a debtor when a specific debt is disputed.

YOU ARE FURTHER NOTIFIED that this is a disputed debt pursuant to section 623 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. It is my belief that your agency has illegally reported this disputed debt to Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. If this is the case, I will most certainly litigate an action against your agency insofar as it has willfully reported a disputed debt. Pursuant to the FCRA, your agency must notify the consumer reporting agencies of any disputed delinquency immediately upon notification thereof. A further cause of action may exist for failure to perform this ministerial task.

YOU ARE FURTHER NOTIFIED that I desire no further communication with your agency under section 805 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Your agency is to CEASE and DESIST all further communication immediately. Should I receive another piece of dunning correspondence that does not comport with the provisions of the FDCPA, I will immediately initiate litigation against your agency.

Sincerely,

John Q. Public

THIS IS AN ATTEMPT TO MAKE A DEBT COLLECTOR OBEY THE LAW. ANY INFORMATION OBTAINED WILL BE USED FOR THAT PURPOSE. THIS COMMUNICATION IS FROM AN ALLEGED DEBTOR REFERENCE A DISPUTED DEBT.

FTC cracks down on advance fees to debt settlement companies


The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) adopted strict new rules on Thursday that ban debt settlement companies from charging advance fees for elimination of credit card balances and other consumer debt. Effective Oct. 27, for-profit companies that sell debt relief services by telephone will no longer be allowed to charge a fee before they successfully settle or reduce a consumer’s outstanding debt obligation.

“This rule will stop companies who offer consumers false promises of reducing credit card debts by half or more in exchange for large, upfront fees,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said Thursday, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden. “Too many of these companies pick the last dollar out of consumers’ pockets — and far from leaving them better off, push them deeper into debt, even bankruptcy.”

The rule concerning upfront fees covers for-profit debt relief telemarketers, including credit counseling, debt settlement and debt negotiation services. It does not cover Internet sales or nonprofit firms, but does cover companies that falsely claim nonprofit status.

Scheduled to take effect on Sept. 27 are three additional Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) provisions that will require debt settlement companies to make specific disclosures to consumers; prohibit them from making material misrepresentations; and extending the TSR to cover calls consumers make to these firms in response to debt relief advertising.

Since the start of the recession, consumers from all 50 states have filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) about debt settlement companies. In addition to the BBB, angry customers have taken their complaints to their state attorney general. The FTC and state enforcers have brought a combined 259 cases in the past decade to stop deceptive and abusive practices by debt relief providers that have targeted consumers in financial distress.

Attorneys generals from Florida, Maine, Texas, Idaho, Missouri, New York, Illinois, West Virginia, Vermont and Minnesota have taken action against companies such as Debt Settlement America, Debt Rx USA, Financial Freedom of America, Clear Your Debt, Swift Rock Financial Solutions and Credit Solutions, a company that has received over 1,600 complaints in the past 36 months.

“My office works to protect Floridians from misleading debt relief activities by seeking to stop deceptive practices and resolving consumer complaints,” stated Attorney General Bill McCollum. “In these tough economic times, aconsumer’s best defense is to be aware of misleading advertisements and avoid sending money to companies offering such services.”

The rule further specifies that fees for debt settlement services may not be collected until a debt has been successfully renegotiated, settled, reduced or the contract terms have been changed. Moreover, there must be a written settlement agreement, debt management plan or other agreement between the consumer and the creditor and the consumer must have made at least one payment as a result of the agreement negotiated by the debt relief provider.

If a consumer has enrolled multiple debts in one debt relief program, the rule specifies how debt relief providers can collect their fee for each settled debt. To ensure providers do not front-load their fees, the fee for a single debt must be in proportion to the total fee that would be charged if all of the debts had been settled. Alternatively, if the fee is based upon a percentage of what the consumer saves, the percentage charged must be the same for each of the debts.

The rule further specifies that consumer’s maintain fees and savings for debt repayment in a “dedicated account.” However, providers may only require a dedicated account under the following five conditions: the dedicated account is maintained at an insured financial institution; the consumer owns the funds (including any interest accrued); the consumer can withdraw the funds at any time without penalty; the provider does not own or control or have any affiliation with the company administering the account; and the provider does not exchange any referral fees with the company administering the account.

If you have been victimized by a debt relief program, file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office by calling (866) 9-NO-SCAM (866-966-7226) or visiting their website at http://www.myfloridalegal.com. The Federal Trade Commission also offers a variety of resources detailing consumer rights at http://www.ftc.gov.

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.

Foreclosure defense: Process servers allegedly filing false affidavits


Recent reports indicate that approximately 462,339 foreclosure cases were pending in Florida as of June 30.

Following foreclosure moratoriums by Ally Financial, Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, and PNC Bank, the settlement of deceptive marketing charges by Wells Fargo, and the Attorney General’s investigation into faulty foreclosure practices at the Florida Default Law Group, the Law Offices of David J. Stern, P.A.; the Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson, P.A.; and Shapiro & Fishman, LLP, investigators have turned up a new problem.

Process servers are now alleged to have filed false affidavits in support of personal service in foreclosure matters.

Foreclosure defense attorneys claim to have documented a number of cases where process servers filed false affidavits. While investigating the law firms that employed “robo-signers,” state investigators are also closely examining service of process in a number of cases.

Recent foreclosure defense cases allege homeowners never received a court summons even though they still occupied their home, while others allege that process servers did not take the required steps to locate them or filed false affidavits about whom or when they delivered papers.

According to the lawsuits, some process servers violated rules related to the personal delivery of legal papers. Like robo-signing foreclosure documents without reviewing them for accuracy, a number of homeowners are now alleging they were never served with foreclosure papers.

Once rare, “bad service” of process has become more common as lenders and their attorneys speed thousands of foreclosure cases through “rocket dockets” that are designed to clear an ever growing backlog.

“With the foreclosure debacle, it’s become more complicated,” says Carlos J. Reyes, a foreclosure defense attorney with the Reyes Law Group in Fort Lauderdale. “For the sake of expediency, process servers are being rushed. As they are paid by the piece, they have an interest in earning a higher income.”

Homeowners involved in foreclosures are required to receive a summons and complaint personally delivered by a process server. Repeated attempts at personal service are required before court permission can be obtained to publish a legal notice in the alternative.

Some process servers have allegedly cut corners. One recently claimed she could not find a homeowner facing foreclosure on a second home, despite conducting extensive record checks. This held true even though the foreclosure complaint clearly provided a primary home address in Connecticut.

Lenders and attorneys typically contract their summons delivery work to large process serving firms, who sub-contract to private independent servers. In her deposition to state investigators, former Stern paralegal Tammie Lou Kapusta, testified that summons serving procedures were a “complete mess,” with homeowners routinely complaining they never received papers.

She and another former employee, Kelly Scott, said their managers told them move forward with the foreclosures anyway.

Investigators also questioned staff at Stern’s firm regarding billing practices that involved serving multiple parties at an address and billing for each one.

“Good service of process is crucial”, Reyes said. He has heard of homeowners losing their home because they never received a summons and missed filing dates or court hearings.

While a court summons must be accepted by an adult, state law does not require it to be served upon the property owner. No one has to sign, verifying receipt, “which makes it easier to say the person was served, when they weren’t,” Reyes said.

Laws governing the service of process vary from state to state. In Florida, there is no statewide licensing or regulating body for process servers, and rules vary greatly among the 20 judicial circuits.

Among the largest with operations in ten states is Tampa-based ProVest. Although ownership interest by the law firms has been denied, they maintain support staff at the Law Offices of David J. Stern and Shapiro & Fishman in Boca Raton. Marshall C. Watson also uses ProVest.

While ProVest declined to comment on specific cases, company president James Ward stated they “utilize properly licensed or authorized independent contractors” and require them to “fully comply with state and local guidelines.”

To learn more about the mortgage foreclosure crisis or to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office, visit their website at www.myfloridalegal.com or call (866) 9-NO-SCAM (866-966-7226).

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/07/foreclosure-defense-process-servers-allegedly-fili/ To review Bill Lewis’ entire consumer protection series at the Highlands Today, visit www.williamlewis.us.

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.

Stop Annoying or Harassing Phone Calls


Are you receiving annoying or harassing phone calls from telemarketers or debt collectors? In these tough economic times, your telephone seems to ring more often. There are actions you can take to reduce the number of calls you receive. First, you must determine whether the caller is a telemarketer attempting to solicit a product or charity, or a debt collector attempting to collect a past due bill.

To stop most telemarketers from calling your home or cell phone, you must sign up through the Do Not Call Registry offered by the Federal Trade Commission. Registration can be made online at www.donotcall.gov or by calling 888-382-1222 from the number in which you seek to block.

The national Do Not Call Registry gives you an opportunity to restrict most telemarketing calls received on your home or cell number. Once you register, telemarketers covered by registry rules have up to 31 days to remove your phone number from their calling lists. Should the telemarketing calls continue, you have a right to file a complaint with the FTC.

The Federal Trade Commission says that “because of limitations in the jurisdiction of the FTC and FCC, calls from or on behalf of political organizations, charities, and telephone surveyors would still be permitted, as would calls from companies with which you have an existing business relationship, or those to whom you’ve provided express agreement in writing to receive their calls. However, if you ask a company with which you have an existing business relationship to place your number on its own do-not-call list, it must honor your request. You should keep a record of the date you make the request.”

Distinguished from the telemarketer, is the debt collector. If you owe a past-due bill, debt collectors have the right to call you – but not harass you. The Federal Trade Commission enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), a federal law that prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from you.

There are many types of debts covered by the FDCPA. Personal, family, household debts, auto loans, medical bills, and even your mortgage are all protected under the law. The FDCPA, however, does not cover debts incurred to run or operate a business.

Some of the most common questions about debt collectors and consumer rights can be answered by visiting the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site at www.ftc.gov. Although the FTC will not normally intercede on behalf of an individual consumer, they act as a clearing house for complaints and have been known to initiate legal action against the most abusive collectors in the industry.

Should a Florida resident have a complaint about abusive debt collection tactics, they can file a complaint through the Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR), the state agency in charge of debt collectors, at www.flofr.com. In this instance, the OFR will open a file and forward the complaint to the offending agency.

If a debt collector violates the FDCPA, you can take legal action.

“You have the right to sue a collector in a state or federal court within one year from the date the law was violated,” the FTC said. “If you win, the judge can require the collector to pay you for any damages you can prove you suffered because of the illegal collection practices, like lost wages and medical bills. The judge can require the debt collector to pay you up to $1,000, even if you can’t prove that you suffered actual damages. You also can be reimbursed for your attorney’s fees and court costs. A group of people also may sue a debt collector as part of a class action lawsuit and recover money for damages up to $500,000, or one percent of the collector’s net worth, whichever amount is lower. Even if a debt collector violates the FDCPA in trying to collect a debt, the debt does not go away if you owe it.”

Whether you receive an annoying or harassing call from a telemarketer soliciting a product or charity, or a debt collector attempting to collect a debt, you can stop your phone from ringing by simply learning your rights.

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/21/lc-stop-annoying-or-harassing-phone-calls/columns-welewisjr/

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/