Credit Freeze is Free Under New Federal Law


 CreditFreeze

A year after the devasting data breach at Equifax – one that left the sensitive personal information of over 143 million Americans exposed – consumers can now better protect themselves against identity theft.

Replacing a patchwork of state credit freeze laws, new legislation now requires the credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to allow consumers an opportunity to “freeze” or otherwise “lock” their credit report from public disclosure without fee. Temporary “fraud alerts” can also be extended to one-year from the previous 90 days.

Place an Equifax credit freeze – Experian credit freeze – TransUnion credit freeze.

With the passage of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act – or EGRRCPA – in May, Congress amended the Fair Credit Reporting Act instituting several important changes. Effective Sept. 21, nationwide credit reporting agencies are statutorily mandated to provide a global credit freeze to consumers free of charge. Previously, 42 states – including Florida – allowed Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to charge consumers for locking their credit report. Unless a consumer was a verified identity theft victim, they were charged anywhere from $2-$10 – per credit bureau – each time they locked or unlocked their credit report.

A credit freeze – also referred by some as a security freeze or lock – was designed to make it more difficult for criminals to use stolen personal information to open new accounts fraudulently as credit reporting agencies were prohibited from providing credit information to potential lenders. Under the new legislation, initial fraud alerts are extended from 90 days to one year. No change has been implemented on the seven-year extended fraud alert.

Under the EGRRCPA, nationwide credit reporting agencies are now required to remove the fee for maintaining a credit freeze and must provide consumers a webpage for credit freeze and fraud alert requests.

Place an initial Equifax fraud alert – initial Experian fraud alert – initial TransUnion fraud alert.

Previously, freezing your credit report at the Equifax, Experian and TransUnion consumer reporting agencies was governed by state law. And with dozens of states allowing credit bureaus to charge a fee each time a report was locked or unlocked, consumers rarely took advantage of the opportunity unless they were specifically at risk for identity theft. The number of situations requiring a credit report were abundant. Whether applying for employment or insurance, a new cell phone or home utilities, a new credit card, vehicle or home mortgage loan, the cost could really become excessive.

“Freezing and unfreezing my credit report got to be an expensive proposition,” Fort Pierce businessman Tony DiFrancesco told the South Florida Reporter. “Each time I applied for credit, it was another $20 – $10 to thaw my report, then another $10 to freeze it again. The fees were ridiculous.”

With the new law now in effect, freezing and unfreezing a credit report has been made simple as each of the credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, TransUnion – has an online portal dedicated to processing consumer requests. Now when a request to freeze a report has been received online or by telephone, it must be processed with one day. Likewise, a request to unfreeze a credit report must be completed with one hour.

Consumers are also protected under the provisions of the new Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act with the ability to establish a credit freeze for their minor children.

Place an Equifax child freeze – Experian child freeze – TransUnion child freeze.

According to a recent Javelin Research survey, more than one million children – or 1.48 percent of minors in the United States – were victims of identity theft in 2017, resulting in total losses of $2.6 billion and $540 million in out-of-pocket costs to families. Parents can now freeze their child’s social security number for credit purposes – a number typically issued shortly after birth – and reduce the potential for life altering identity theft issues.

“As a victim of identity theft, I look forward to being able to block my kids personal information from unlawful use,” Xavier Mitjavila Moix told the South Florida Reporter. “It’s all about piece of mind and the new legislation is a start in the right direction.”

To learn more about credit freezes and fraud alerts, the Federal Trade Commission provides a wealth of resources at www.identitytheft.gov.

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How to Order a Free Credit Report


 

FreeCreditReport

Before applying for an automobile, credit card, or home mortgage loan, it’s a good idea to check your credit report for errors. Banks, credit unions, auto finance and mortgage lenders have all raised the bar when making credit granting decisions. Long gone are the days when a 620 FICO credit score sufficed. Borrowers with bad credit are being turned down or forced to pay significantly higher interest rates when applying. Those with low credit scores have even been denied employment opportunities and automobile insurance.

Negative information contained in credit reports – such as late payments, collection accounts and public record entries – determine whether you can obtain credit, goods, benefits, services, employment and/or insurance. It’s important to review your Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports on a regular basis and correct any information that is inaccurate, erroneous, obsolete, or fraudulent due to possible identity theft.

Don’t be scammed by the numerous “free credit report” opportunities found on the Internet. While dozens of companies offer that so-called “free credit report,” many of them have strings attached, such as subscription-based opt-in requiring you to provide credit card information.

You really can obtain a free copy of your credit report.

Under a narrow set of circumstances, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report directly from the credit reporting agencies. If you have been denied credit, goods, benefits, services, employment or insurance, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are statutorily mandated under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to provide a copy without charge.

Equifax can be contacted at (800) 685-1111 or online at www.Equifax.com.

Experian can be contacted at (888) 397-3742 or online at www.Experian.com.

Trans Union can be contacted at (800) 916-8800 or online at www.TransUnion.com.

When ordering credit reports, be sure to indicate that you were denied credit, goods, benefits, services and/or employment when prompted. Absent these exceptions, you are entitled to one free “annual credit report” per year. For your free annual credit report, contact the central source at 877-FACT-ACT (877-322-8228) or online at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Follow the voice prompts and obtain your credit report for review.

Credit scores are not included with any of the “free credit reports” provided by the national credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Protect Yourself From Credit Repair Scams


scam_alert

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.

Protect Yourself from Credit Repair Scams


While the economy has been showing some signs of improvement, your good name and reputation is becoming more important within the community. Creditors have tightened their guidelines effectively barring millions of Americans from borrowing money.

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

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

The terms credit repair, credit restoration or credit rehabilitation are somewhat synonymous. Those with bad histories cannot afford to ignore the potential benefits of credit repair. In today’s economy, a strong FICO 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 may hire a credit service organization (CSO) in the restoration of their good name and reputation within the community.

Most – but not all – CSO’s specialize in the restoration of consumer credit worthiness as well as identity theft issues.  Assuming that the credit repair company is performing within the law, 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 CSO will assist in the submission of disputes electronically, verbally and in writing to the Equifax, Experian and Trans Union consumer reporting agencies.  Disputes are also submitted to creditors, collection agencies, third-party record providers and/or state, federal, local, and private regulatory authorities.

Unlike most credit repair clinics that submit the same written dispute letters monthly, a reputable CSO 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, collectors, and third-party record providers reporting negative, inaccurate, obsolete and/or erroneous information.

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

A reputable CSO should have a provable track record of results as well as the ability to modify and/or remove erroneous or inaccurate judgments, liens, foreclosures, bankruptcies, short-sales, student loans, inquiries, derogatory tradelines, personal identifiers and other transient data from a consumer’s credit report. Although the credit restoration process can take anywhere from 30 days to six months, most individuals should see some results within the first 45 to 60 days.

Credit repair, credit restoration and/or credit rehabilitation is as legal as pleading “not guilty” in a court of law. With that said, one must understand that most CSO’s are not law firms and that their employees may not be licensed to practice law.  As such, even a reputable CSO 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

When self-help or the “do-it-yourself” approach is not feasible and you decide to hire a CSO 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 www.ftc.gov or through the Better Business Bureau at www.BBB.org.

South Florida Credit Scores Drop in September


Credit rating agency Experian released Wednesday its second-annual “State of Credit” list of cities with the highest and lowest credit scores.

The study found that the cities with the worst average credit score were concentrated in the South, while those with the highest average score were centered in the upper Midwest.

According to CreditKarma.com, the credit scores of consumers in the Miami metropolitan statistical area dropped in September as they continued racking up significant personal debt.

The average credit score in the Miami area was 649 in September, down from a previous low of 652 in August. The trend was the same statewide, although other Floridians seemed to maintain better credit scores. The average Florida credit score was 654 in September, down from 657 in August.

The Sunshine State ranked 35th for credit score averages nationwide. California residents had the best average credit score, at 682, while those in Mississippi ranked at the bottom, at 626.

CreditKarma found that consumers in South Florida piled on debt in three significant categories.  In September, they had an average mortgage debt of $199,701, student loan obligations of $32,254, and credit card balances of $5,548.  This is an increase of 4 percent, 2.8 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively, from the previous month.

The study also found that consumers in the Miami area ranked higher in mortgage and student loan debt, but had less credit card debt than others across the country.

Obtaining credit reports and correcting credit reporting errors is something for every consumer to seriously consider.  This is especially so in tough economic times.

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 are 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. 

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

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.