COVID-19: Free Annual Credit Report Now Available Weekly



In a rare joint action, the national credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion have announced they are now offering free weekly credit reports to all Americans in an effort to protect their financial health during the sudden and unprecedented hardship caused by COVID-19. 

Available through the Annual Credit Report portal, the free reports will be accessible through April 2021. 

“These are unprecedented times facing the world. People are feeling scared and uncertain about the future. To help play our part and reduce some of that anxiety, we are uniting as an industry to help people know the facts about their financial data,” Mark W. Begor, CEO of Equifax; Brian Cassin, CEO of Experian; and Chris Cartwright, CEO of TransUnion, indicated in a joint statement. “We are making credit reports more accessible more often so people can better manage their finances and take necessary steps to protect their credit standing.”

As noted by the credit agencies, the “hardship” has spread rapidly over the last few weeks with the novel coronavirus shutting down much of the country. That led to approximately 22 million workers – or 13 percent of the U.S. labor force – filing for unemployment. In addition, almost 3 million borrowers have requested a forbearance on their home mortgage. 

Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act – or CARES Act – creditors and other financial institutions are required to report to the credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion that consumers are current on their loans and other obligations if relief was sought due to the pandemic. 

Credit vigilance is critical during these uncertain times. Consumers are advised to review their credit reports frequently to determine how their payment behavior is being reported. The single most important action for consumers who cannot pay their bills is to contact their creditors to determine what assistance is available.

“To help play our part and reduce some of that anxiety, we are uniting as an industry to help people know the facts about their financial data,” the CEOs concluded. “We are making credit reports more accessible more often so people can better manage their finances and take necessary steps to protect their credit standing.” 

Accessible through the Annual Credit Report portal, the free weekly credit reports are available through April 2021. 

“Reviewing your credit report on a regular basis is a simple way to be proactive about your financial well-being,” Steve Swickle of Fort Lauderdale told South Florida Reporter. “And with 156 opportunities over the next 12 months, it just got easier.” 

Republican Club of Indian River County hosts All-American Rally


Chairman Frank J. Sosta, Jr. and the Republican Club of Indian River County have planned an All-American Rally this Saturday, September 26th at the Indian River Fairgrounds in Vero Beach from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m.

The “All-American Rally” promises to be entertaining, inspiring, fun and joyful.  A versatile and talented local band – The Landsharks Band – will be performing.  They have performed locally and across the nation since the 1980’s.

Fun for the whole family includes, a car show, bounce houses, field games, an obstacle course, sand art and more. Local talent and American heroes from all over Indian River County, merchandise, treats, contests and prizes await those attending.

Hosted by the Republican Club of Indian River County, the All-American Rally is sponsored by “The Founders” – the Law Offices of Kelly Cambron, P.A. and Young’s Market.  Jon Osterholm serves as co-chairman of the Rally, while 10-year-old Katherine Ann Lewis of St. Helen Catholic School will sing the National Anthem.

The All-American Rally will feature a visit by Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Florida Senator Joe Negron, Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar and other state, federal and local officials.  “The Rally will offer an excellent opportunity to chat one-on-one with elected officials and those running for public office,” Sosta told South Florida Reporter.  “You won’t want to miss this event.”

“It’s an honor to sponsor the All-American Rally,” attorney Kelly Cambron of Vero Beach told the South Florida Reporter.  “We have a great venue, amazing speakers and a program that is all about community.”

The 2015 All-American Rally will be held at the Indian River Fairgrounds on Saturday, September 26th from 2:00 p.m. until 6 p.m.  Tickets for the event are $15.00 per person, including barbecue dinner.  Kids under 10 are free.  Dinner includes BBQ pork and chicken, grilled hot dogs, various side items, drink and desert treat.  Beer and wine may be purchased separately.

Executive sponsors of the All-American Rally include Wesley Davis, candidate for Property Appraiser; County Commissioner Tim Zorc; Clerk of Court Jeffrey Smith, and Joseph’s Lite Cookies.  Senator level sponsors include Lange Sykes, candidate for State Representative and Total LifeSafety.

For more information, please visit   To purchase tickets, please visit

“As a locally owned business, it’s an honor to support an event meant to bring community together,” John Kim of Young’s Market told the South Florida Reporter.


Bill Lewis of Fort Lauderdale – Radio talk show host, Starbucks connoisseur, social media whiz, political consultant, extreme coupon shopper, identity theft expert, columnist, philanthropist and his kids Dad.

As a nationally recognized credit repair and ID theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

Target data breach – free credit monitoring and identity theft insurance

William E. Lewis Jr, Target Data Breach
Target data breach results in free credit monitoring for all customers

Expect more, pay less has brought new meaning as Target announced this week how shoppers can enroll in a free credit monitoring and identity theft protection service in the wake of a massive data heist.

According to a specially dedicated website, the retailer will offer customers the service for one year.

Target customers can register for the service — regardless whether they have been personally affected by the theft of customer data records at the discount store chain.

Step-by-step instructions on how to enroll in the Target credit monitoring program.

The announcement comes after Target revealed last week that the massive security breach may have affected up to 110 million of its customers during the holiday shopping season and included more types of confidential information than previously disclosed.

Target had previously reported that about 40 million credit and debit cards may have been affected by the breach that occurred between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15.

“I know that it is frustrating for our guests to learn that this information was taken and we are truly sorry they are having to endure this,” stated Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and chief executive officer for Target in a written statement. “I also want our guests to know that understanding and sharing the facts related to this incident is important to me and the entire Target team.”

While continuing to investigate, Target now indicates that an additional 70 million customers were impacted by the theft of their names, phone numbers, and email and mailing addresses. Some of the information stolen in the data breach belonged to customers who shopped before the holiday season.

“They all claim to care about protecting us from identity theft, but their very similar privacy policies don’t appear to support these claims,” stated Denise Richardson, herself a victim of identity theft and author of “Give Me Back My Credit.” “It’s difficult to believe they are as interested in protecting our personal info as they are in protecting their business model in an ecosystem comprised of undisclosed partners, affiliates, vendors, alliances, resellers and contractors who, along with any other undisclosed third party they warn they buy, sell or share our data with.”

Surpassing an incident uncovered in 2007 that saw more than 45 million credit and debit cards stolen from Marshalls and T.J. Maxx, the Target data breach is the largest reported ever for a retailer.

“Within a day of enrolling in the credit monitoring service, I received details to check my credit,” Remington Longstreth, a frequent Target shopper told Examiner. “I’m going to use this service to supplement what I already have to protect my good name and reputation in the community.”

In addition to the Target credit monitoring service, impacted customers may also protect themselves from potential identity theft.

Periodically review your credit report

By keeping close tabs on your credit report, you can detect signs of identity theft early. If you find an account not opened by you and have identified it as fraudulent, enter a dispute directly with the creditor as well as with the credit reporting agencies of EquifaxExperian and TransUnion.

You can obtain a free credit report at or 877-322-8228.

Place a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit report

Contact 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 and/or services.

Equifax can be contacted at 800-525-6285, Experian at 888-397-3742 and Trans Union at 800-916-8800. Be sure to renew the alert every three months.

Freeze your credit report

Identity thieves are frozen in their tracks without access to your credit report as potential creditors will not have access to your credit history. In most states, 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 may be required to pay a small fee. Without access to your credit report, a responsible lender will not issue credit.

Stop unsolicited credit card offers

Opting out at 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 and address from lists supplied by the Equifax, Experian, Trans Union and Innovis credit reporting agencies to be used for firm (preapproved/ prescreened) offers of credit or insurance.

“Freezing our credit and keeping a vigilant eye on our accounts ourselves continues to be the only way we have any control over our data, at least until there is far more transparency and a lot less sharing of data,” concluded Richardson.

Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

Bob Levinson: Allegedly held hostage by Iran while White House ignores family pleas


2,140 days without freedom.

Retired FBI agent Robert Levinson devoted almost three decades of service to his country and the citizens of the United States.  A career that deserved honors has instead resulted in almost six years as a hostage in a foreign country.

Until his disappearance in March 2007, Levinson, 64, resided with his wife and seven children in Coral Springs.  Working as a private investigator, he was researching a cigarette smuggling case on Kish Island in Iran when he went missing.

There have been many efforts over the years to locate Levinson and return him home and to his loving family.  All have met with disappointing results.

In 2010, the Levinson family received a “proof-of-life” video from his captors.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation responded by placing a $1,000,000 reward for information pertaining to his disappearance and whereabouts.

To date, there have been no publicized results and the Levinson family feels all but abandoned.

Family and friends have set up a website and social media accounts under the username of “HelpBobLevinson” on Facebook and Twitter.   Spreading awareness by posting updates on Bob Levinson’s “disappearance” in Iran has become priority one.

Levinson’s wife – Christine – released Tuesday five disturbing photos of Bob dressed in an orange prison-type jumpsuit.  He had lost weight and has a long grey beard and disheveled hair.

In visibly deteriorating health, Levinson is also seen holding signs pleading for help.

An analysis of the photographs has led authorities to believe that Iran is behind Levinson’s kidnapping.   With such knowledge, the family hopes that the United States will exact more pressure on the Iranian government to free Levinson.

According to published reports, the Levinson family received the photos anonymously by email in late 2010 and early 2011.  With Tuesday’s release comes a heightened attempt to encourage media awareness and governmental attention.

The Levinson family is now attempting to secure Bob’s freedom through a recently created White House petition process under the Obama Administration’s “We the People” website.

“Make rescuing US Citizen Robert Levinson being held hostage in the Middle East since 2007 a top priority,” states the petition.

The family notes on the website that Levinson is the second-longest-held hostage in American history, second to Terry Anderson, held longer in the Lebanon Hostage Crisis.

As of now, the petition has almost 11,100 signatures.  To be successful, it must have 25,000 by January 20th – the day before President Barack Obama’s inauguration in Washington D.C.

“We keep trying to get media attention in the hopes that whoever is holding him can see it, and will reach out to us to try and resolve it,” stated Bob’s son, Doug Levinson. “We also started the petition to try to get the White House to respond to it and make it a top priority.”

When Robert Levinson finally returns home, he will be proud to find his son pursuing the same career path that he took.

“My dad always wanted to be an FBI agent since he was 8 years old,” Levinson said. “None of my brothers or sisters had the desire to go into the FBI, but I have since I can remember. He’s my idol, my hero. Everybody wants to be like their hero, and I’m no different. If I could be half the man my father is, I would be happy.”

The entire community can help the Levinson family by signing the petition and promoting it through social media.  In order to warrant an official response from the White House, 14,000 more signatures are required by Sunday.

For more information about Bob Levinson’s disappearance, please visit  For more information on the $1,000,000.00 reward being offered by the FBI for information on his disappearance and whereabouts, please visit

Florida celebrates National AMBER Alert Awareness Day

With pictures of missing children flashing across billboards on our streets and highways, alerts over our televisions or radio, or in an email or text message blast, AMBER Alerts are hard to miss.

On Sunday, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey joined Florida’s local, state, federal and private partners to commemorate National AMBER Alert Awareness Day.

January 13th was National AMBER Alert Awareness Day.  This year marked the 17th anniversary of the abduction and death of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman of Texas.  She is the girl who the system is now named and whose death and abduction the U.S. Department of Justice remembers on this day.

According to an FDLE release, Florida established its AMBER Alert Plan 13 years ago.  It was the second state in the nation to do so.  Since the start of Florida’s program, the AMBER Plan has expanded to include billboards, dynamic highway message signs, lottery machines, email and text messages and messages through social media.

The FDLE has encouraged Floridians to sign up for free AMBER Alerts to help locate and quickly recover children when they go missing.

“The AMBER Alert has made a huge difference in law enforcement’s ability to find abducted children,” says Gretl Plessinger, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.  “It’s like having thousands of eyes, all at once looking for this child.”

Approximately 40,000 children are reported missing every year in Florida, with the majority of those being reported as runaways.  In 2012, the FDLE Missing Endangered Persons Information Clearinghouse issued nine AMBER Alerts and 31 Missing Child Alerts.

“Florida’s citizens have been vital to the success of the Florida AMBER Plan,” Commissioner Bailey said. “We encourage Floridians to take a few moments today to sign up to receive AMBER Alert notifications so they can help law enforcement better protect Florida’s children.”

Through their Facebook page, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement offers tips while encouraging people to sign up for its free AMBER Alerts through its website.

More than 20,000 people have signed up to receive Florida AMBER Alerts at

Five Guys Burgers and Fries hosts ‘Give Back Night’ for Tamarac – North Lauderdale Relay for Life

ImageAs part of their commitment to the community, Five Guys Burgers and Fries is partnering with the Relay for Life of Tamarac – North Lauderdale and the American Cancer Society (ACS) to help raise funds and generate awareness for cancer research.

To help with the effort, Five Guys Burgers and Fries – located at 5701 North University Drive, Tamarac, FL 33321 – is hosting a special event Thursday night, January 10th, during which 15% of its total sales from 5-9 p.m. will be donated to the Relay for Life of Tamarac – North Lauderdale.

“We’re proud to support the American Cancer Society through the Relay for Life of Tamarac – North Lauderdale,” stated Ed Kelin, manager of Five Guys Burgers and Fries.  “This event is part of our commitment to the local communities where we reside.”

Beginning at 5 p.m. and throughout the evening, guests are welcome to dine at Five Guys Burgers and Fries to support a great cause.  Information about the Tamarac – North Lauderdale Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society and the important work of its foundations and community outreach will be available.

“It’s amazing to think that millions of people will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Someone close to you or me may be one of them,” stated event chairwoman Julie Fishman.  “Our Relay for Life is not only a way to join in the fight back against cancer, but it is also a way to inspire hope by raising funds and awareness to help those facing the disease.”

The Relay for Life of Tamarac – North Lauderdale will be held on May 17th and 18th at Millennium Middle School in Tamarac.  For information on the event, you may visit them online, “Like” them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

The weekend of October 12th on The Credit Report with Bill Lewis

Interesting guests and timely topics will be on AM 740 WSBR and AM 1470 WWNN the weekend of October 12th and The Credit Report with Bill Lewis.

As a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues, The Credit Report with Bill Lewis can be found on AM 740 WSBR in south Florida. Hosted by Bill Lewis, the show broadcasts live weekdays at 7am.

Originally launched on AM 1400 WFTL in 2004, as the “Credit Restoration Consultants Hour,” Bill Lewis provided self-help tips and advice regarding credit repair, finances, and related topics. Throughout the years, Bill’s show strayed from the original concept of providing financial awareness to his listeners.

In an effort to strengthen his listener base and to broaden the topics hosted, Bill launched The Credit Report with Bill Lewis upon moving to AM 1470 WWNN within the Beasley Broadcasting group.

Listeners were searching for help regarding a myriad of topics from credit repair, extreme coupon shopping, and foreclosure matters, but welcomed the political format that Bill introduced locally to a south Florida audience.

Since the show’s inception, Bill Lewis has interviewed some of the country’s leading politicians, including: Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Herman Cain, Chris Christie, Jon Huntsman, Allen West, Rick Scott, George LeMieux, Jeff Atwater, Pam Bondi, Marco Rubio, Sharon Day, Alex Sink, Adam Putnam, Charlie Crist, Bill McCollum, Jeff Kottkamp, Jennifer Carroll, Christine O’Donnell, among others.

In addition, The Credit Report with Bill Lewis has hosted a number of politicians as well as attorneys and financial experts in the south Florida area. Among the dozens that have appeared on the show are Carlos Reyes, Al Lamberti, Chip LaMarca, Adam Hasner, Ellyn Bogdanoff, Tom Rooney, Roger Stone, Bob Davids, Lori Parrish, Richard Denapoli, Rico Petrocelli, Jamie McDonnell, Jim Lewis, Tom Lauder, and John Contini.

The Credit Report with Bill Lewis airs live, Monday through Friday from 7am-8am Eastern Time with an encore presentation Saturday’s at 3pm on AM 740 WSBR. Streaming audio is available at and on air participation is welcome at (888) 721-0074.

If you miss the early broadcast, The Credit Report with Bill Lewis is still available weeknights at 9pm Eastern Time, Saturday’s at 6pm and Sunday’s at 8pm on AM 1470 WWNN by streaming audio at

Going head-to-head against Steve Kane and Jimmy Cefalo, Bill Lewis promises more “talk” and fewer commercials.

For daily updates on The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, you can join Bill’s 21,950 plus fans on Facebook at:

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

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.

Loan Modification Licensure in Florida – an Industry no Longer Without Regulation

The days of simply opening up shop and starting a loan modification business have come to an end in Florida. Individuals or businesses providing loan modification services must now be licensed as a mortgage broker by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) in order to conduct business.

The Florida Legislature recently passed Senate Bill SB 2226. This law makes significant changes to Florida’s mortgage brokerage law — Chapter 494, Florida Statutes — effective Jan. 1, 2010. In particular, the new law specifically covers negotiation of existing loans as being part of the duties of a mortgage broker. Any individual or business attempting to negotiate a loan mortgage modification will now be required to obtain a license through OFR. Additionally, there are new disclosures required in order to perform a loan modification — large type print on contracts and a three day rescission period are among a few of the changes.

The new law also requires “loan originators” to obtain a license. Prior to the amended law, there was a large loophole that allowed salaried employees of a mortgage broker to act as loan originators and still receive compensation for bringing a borrower and lender together. Although this section of the law phases in on October 1, 2010, hundreds of individuals have submitted applications to the OFR to become compliant.

The new law was sparked by hundreds of complaints filed with the state attorney general’s office in Tallahassee. While only 59 complaints were filed in 2008, the number skyrocketed to approximately 3,750 in 2009, according to Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, who recently appeared on the Credit Report with Bill Lewis on AM 1470 WWNN.

In an effort to combat the rampant increase in foreclosure rescue scams within an industry previously unregulated, General McCollum sued three foreclosure rescue firms — and the attorneys who worked for them — alleging that they charged advance “qualifying payments” as high as $1,299 to perform loan modifications in violation of state law. Filed in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court on December 17, 2009, the suit also claims the company required clients to establish escrow accounts for additional fees and deceived them by implying the money was for legal representation.

After receiving numerous complaints — the majority originating from consumers outside Florida — the attorney general began investigating Kirkland Young LLC in July, 2009. State regulators soon realized that the business was affiliated with ABK Consultants Inc. and Attorney Aid LLC, which were also named in the suit. Although located in Miami-Dade, the businesses solicited customers nationwide. The legal action seeks to shut down the three companies, a $10,000 fine for each violation of state law, as well as restitution for consumers scammed in the process. Although in receivership, Kirkland Young has also been sued by the Federal Trade Commission.

Through Jan. 31, 2010 South Florida ranks fourth in the nation for home loan modifications, with 37,451 under President Barack Obama’s Making Home Affordable Program. Nationwide, 24 percent of the 3.3 million homes with distressed loans have been modified, according to a U.S. Department of the Treasury report. While the new law is not going to eliminate loan modification scams completely, it should make them more difficult. In 2009, the Mortgage Fraud Task Force was handling more than 200 cases of loan modification fraud. In 2008, the South Florida field office of the FBI had the second-highest number of mortgage fraud reports in the country with 5,155 reported instances.

For more information or to file a complaint, visit Attorney General Bill McCollum’s Web site at

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.