How To Receive Free Credit Reports

Nothing in life is free right? Well in fact you can get free credit reports annually and it won’t affect your credit score. By law, you are entitled to get one free report from each of the big three credit reporting bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian each year thanks to a ruling by the FTC.

Why should you care? Credit reports have an enormous impact on your ability to get credit and at what interest rate. Insurers, landlords, and employers routinely check credit ratings in evaluating whether to insure, rent to or hire people – Is trusting you a good risk? It is important to know as early as possible if there are errors in the report that need to be fixed. You will want to know well in advance before you really need the extra financing, a new home equity loan, extra credit cards or that small business loan. Do you know your credit rating or FICO score? Ensuring that the credit agencies aren’t giving you a bad rap can make or break you and save you thousands over the life of a loan. Doing your own credit check ahead of time to know what is being reported about you is your first step in setting the record straight and protecting yourself.

The formats of the reports from each agency differs slightly, but for the most part they each provide a very detailed account of your credit history, including: the names of your creditors, how much credit they are extending to you, your current balances, whether you have always paid on time or been late and if late, how late, a list of prior addresses, your employment history and employer addresses, any other names you have used, and public records of judgments or liens against you. They even give out your birthday.

The Equifax Credit Report is the cleanest and easiest to read. It has a very concise “Credit Summary” that makes it easy to see at a glance where your credit stands: how many accounts are active, if there has been any negative account history and total balances you are carrying in installment debt on things like your mortgage, auto loan or student loans versus your revolving debt on credit cards or with specific merchants like Nordstrom’s. How to get your free reports from Trans Union, Equifax & Experian:

The rollout has been completed. They are now available to all US residents.

They rolled out by state:

December 1, 2005 – for residents of Western States: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
March 1, 2005 – for residents of Midwestern States: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin
June 1, 2005 – for residents of Southern States: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas
September 1, 2005 –  for residents of Eastern States: Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Puerto Rico and all US territories.

Requests for the free reports can be made by phone by calling toll-free: 1.877.322.8228, through snail mail by writing to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281, or the easiest way through the official website set up expressly to handle these free requests: Be forewarned – they will ask a lot of nosy questions and you will need to know or have fast access to your account numbers, old employer addresses, and how much your typical payments are to your regular creditors.

If you don’t have all your private information on hand, it costs about $10 to buy a report directly from TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian. You may also want to inquire with the credit bureaus about their credit monitoring service plans, as a way to protect your credit from identity theft & fraud.

Even if the rollout hasn’t reached your state of residency, you are entitled to a free report if:

  • you have been turned down for credit or employment in the past 60 days, based on something reported on your credit report
  • you have reason to believe your credit report has fraudulent information
  • you are a recipient of public assistance
  • you are unemployed and plan to apply for unemployment within the next 60 days

If any of the above situations apply to you it is easiest to get your reports for free by contacting each credit bureau directly toll-free by phone: Equifax – 1.800.685.1111, Experian – 1.888.EXPERIAN (1.888.397.3742), or TransUnion – 1.800.916.8800.


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A Closer Look at the FICO Score

It may be just a little number, but the ubiquitous FICO score has considerable influence on every consumer’s life in the United States and Canada. If you are in need of credit, housing, or a job, the higher your FICO number, the better will be your results. As a good part of your credit worthiness will be judged by this number, you need to be aware of how the FICO system operates and how you can improve your score.

Background of the FICO Score

The FICO score is the most well known and widely used credit score in the United States. It owes that honor to being the first one developed by two visionaries. Bill Fair, a mathematician, and Earl Isaac, an electrical engineer, created the FICO score to help department stores and banks evaluate the creditworthiness of their customers. Fair had been working on investigating mathematical techniques for predicting behavior, and thought they could be applied to the then cumbersome process of loan approvals.

When the first credit cards began to be used in the 1950s, granting credit was entirely a subjective transaction, depending on the personal judgments of the people involved. Credit was largely unavailable to large segments of the population because of biases based on age, marital status, sex, and ethnicity. In 1956, to overcome these barriers and make the process more streamlined, Fair and Isaac started a management consultant company with their new formula.

The scoring system was slow to catch on. The banking institutions were resistant, as they are not known to be acclimated to change. However, the advent of computers allowed credit applications to be fully automated and the flexibility proved to be an advantage to creditors who could now easily work with the score. The IRS boosted the use of the scoring system when they asked Fair and Isaac to devise a system to catch tax evaders which worked very well. Today, the scores of the Fair Isaac & Company, Inc. predominate in the credit world.

A Different FICO Score at Each Credit Bureau

Most people believe that they have only one FICO score, and that it is passed mysteriously around between creditors. In fact, every consumer with a credit card will most likely have a different score at each credit reporting bureau. The Fair Isaac Company only produces the software which is used by the credit reporting agencies to calculate a consumer’s credit score. As each bureau will vary in the information contained in a consumer’s credit file, the scores can be different at each bureau.

FICO Scores Change Monthly

Each consumer’s credit file must have at least one account which has been active in the last six months for a score to be computed monthly. New financial information is constantly added in most accounts due to the complex financial affairs of the average consumer today. Your credit score will be changing along with all the additional information being recorded. If you have been late with a payment, paid off a loan early, or filed for bankruptcy, etc., your credit score can move substantially.

Improving Your Score

For consumers who are trying to improve their credit scores, the following are helpful tips:

Check your credit report at each of the three credit reporting bureaus. In order to improve your score, you must know what is on your report. You can obtain a free report at each of the three bureaus every year. Visit website:

Make timely payments on your accounts, as this is one of the biggest influences on improving your credit score. Late payments can lower your score considerably.

Reduce your credit balances. As your balances decline in relationship to your credit limits, your credit score will go up.

If you feel overwhelmed by your financial affairs, seek the help of a reputable financial counselor whose expertise can be invaluable and well worth the investment. Know your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Take a proactive approach to your credit and identity.  Sign up for a credit monitoring service that offers monthly or annual FICO scores as well as daily social security number monitoring.  You will be alerted of changes on your credit reports or if suspicious activity is detected.  This is the first step for securing your identity from fraud.


1. Funding Universe, Fair, Isaac and Company, My FICO, How to Repair Your Credit and Improve Your FICO Credit Score,


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Avoiding Online Auction Fraud

Despite the increase in reports of cyber bulling through Facebook and other social media sites, the number one cybercrime that is reported is by far auction fraud. In particular, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has reported that they have especially seen an increase in auction fraud related to international car auctioning.

An auction that is run is internationally is one of the key signs that you are about to be tricked into giving a fraudster your money. Most of the time when a buyer falls for these tricks, the money is unrecoverable.

In some cases, this can be devastating, but there is nothing that the authorities can do. The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is made up of the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.

They reported that the reports of internet crime made up 62% of the all the complaints that were called in. Undelivered merchandise or payment, credit and debit fraud, check fraud, investment fraud, computer fraud, and confidence fraud were the other categories in which the IC3 received complaints.

This center also stated that the second thing people should watch out for besides international auctioneers is what is called a “second chance auctions.” Second chance auctions are auctions in which the auctioneer contacts the second runner up and tells them that the first buyer fell through and that they can now purchase the item.

Often, the auctioneer will request the buyer to transfer the money to them through an unreliable method. Buyers should only agree to transactions that take place through reliable methods such as an escrow service.

An escrow service is one through which the money is transferred to a third party who is trust worthy that will hold the money until the transaction is completed, upon which the money is given to the seller. The escrow service transfers the money based on pre-determined specifications.

There are several things you should keep in mind as you try to avoid online fraud. The first thing you should do is learn about online fraud.

Learn what kinds of things can give a fraudster away so that you can avoid giving your money to them. You will also want to learn how the auction works, what the rules are, what kind of regulations you must hold to as the buyer, and what the seller’s is responsible for.

These things are all vitally important to know before you bid. In addition, you will want to research the seller.

This is vital to avoiding fraud and you will do it thoroughly every time you consider a bid if you are serious about avoiding fraud. Sometimes the only information placed online by a bidder is his or her email address.

Send a message to the seller requesting more information. If the seller is not forthcoming, do not place a bid as the seller is almost for sure a fraudster.

If the seller happens to be a business, look up the business on the Better Business Bureau. In addition to reviewing the personal information on the seller, you should read the reviews on the seller.

If there are not very many reviews, even if the reviews are good, you probably will want to find another place to purchase the goods. The seller should have long history with 95% positive reviews for you to trust him or her enough to make the purchase.

Remember that even with these precautions, a fraudster can still manipulate the review system on occasion. Be wary and watch out for other signs that you are deal with a fraudster.

Next, you will want to check and see what kind of payment the seller is asking for. Remember that if it is not a reliable, traceable way of payment, you will want to find another way to make the purchase.

You will also want to look at the auction’s policies. Learn what the auction site does when problems arise and warranties are requested.

It is also good to know what their policy is on delivery times, exchanges, and defective merchandise. By the time you are done you should also have a thorough understanding of how shipping and delivery works and how much it costs.

The costs of shipping and delivery are often expensive and this cost is often a surprise to buyers. Do not let this cost be a surprise to you.

Take a proactive approach to keeping your identity safe from fraud, on and offline.  Read who we ranked as the top credit monitoring services this year and sign up for free 30 day identity monitoring & protection. Get free alerts when fraud or suspicious activity is detected so you can take action


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The Hacking Threat For Biometric Scanning Security Devices

Remember when fingerprint and facial recognition scanning was just cool spy tech seen in Mission Impossible movies?  Until recently, only the CIA and top secret spy agencies had this cool technology at their disposal.  Long gone are those days as everyone with a late model cell phone or mobile device can now take advantage of these cool biometric security features.  However, there may be some downsides to unlocking your smartphone or tablet with a scan of your thumbprint or face.

By the year 2019, it’s estimated that there will be nearly 500 million biometric scanners in use around the world.  Amounting to a staggering $25 billion dollar industry.  Biometric scanning is meant to take the place of alpha-numeric passwords that we’ve all used for years and is being touted as a more secure way to lock down your sensitive information.  But just like normal passwords, that are stored on encrypted clouds and servers across the globe, won’t thumbprints and eye scans be susceptible to hacking and theft as well?

But there have already been cases of biometric hacking on a large scale. An estimated 22 million people had their personal data stolen in a massive data breach at the Office of Personnel Management in December 2014, including RAND privacy expert and mother of two Rebecca Balebako. She received a letter from OPM last year informing her that her personal information, including her ten fingerprints, were stolen in the breach. –  Read the full article here. 

My question is, what happens when your biometrics are stolen and used for identity theft?  You can’t change your thumbprint every 30 days.  You certainly can’t change the composition of your retina if your eyeball biometrics are hacked.  Nor is it likely you’ll get plastic surgery to change your face, should your facial scan information be stolen.  Once your personal features are stolen, how to you ever get access to your secure websites, devices and information again.  Biometric tech might seem like tricked out technology at the surface, but it’s possible that it may be less secure than the 10 digit passwords we’ve grown accustomed to.


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Family Credit Monitoring Plans

Are there any services that offer family credit monitoring plans that cover an entire household of adults & children?

This is a question that comes up quite often actually.  Mainly, because most credit monitoring plans are aimed at covering individual social security numbers.  And while there are several services out there that offer plans that monitor multiple SSN’s, they are not as widely publicized and can be difficult to find.  If you have a household of 2 adults and 3 children, purchasing an individual credit monitoring plan for each will run you well over $100/month.  This just isn’t feasible for most families who want some peace of mind with a good, comprehensive credit & identity monitoring service.

Family Plans

Right now, the most affordable family credit monitoring plan is offered by IdentityGuard. The price is $27.99/month and this covers 2 adults + up to 15 children.  

  • Social Security Monitoring
  • Online “Black Market” Monitoring
  • ID Verification Alerts
  • 3-Bureau Credit Monitoring
  • Credit Scores*
  • Identity Theft Victim Assistance
  • $1 Million Identity Theft Insurance**
  • Child identity monitoring (kID Sure®)

Click here to learn more & sign up for the IdentityGuard family monitoring plan. 

Couples Plan

If you don’t necessarily need a plan that covers multiple children, but just yourself your significant other, IdentityGuard has a couples plan as well.  This plan is $26.99/month and monitors the following list of items;

  • Social Security Monitoring
  • Online “Black Market” Monitoring
  • ID Verification Alerts
  • 3-Bureau Credit Monitoring
  • Credit Scores*
  • Identity Theft Victim Assistance
  • $1 Million Identity Theft Insurance**

Click here to learn more & sign up for the IdentityGuard Couples monitoring service.

I’ve reviewed all of the IdentityGuard services and compared them to other top monitoring plans from companies such as LifeLock, TransUnion, Experian and many more.  IdentityGuard is hands down the most comprehensive credit monitoring service provider on the market.  They offer the best value, highest customer satisfaction ratings, top BBB ratings and numerous awards for their protection & monitoring plans.  If you need a solution for monitoring multiple social security numbers, you’re not going to go wrong with the 2 IdentityGuard plans.



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Citi IdentityMonitor Review

Iden­ti­ty­Mon­i­tor is a ser­vice pro­vided by Citibank. Citibank has been in busi­ness for the past 200 years thanks to its abil­ity to do busi­ness through what they call Respon­si­ble Finance. What this means to Citibank is that they have invested hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars into small busi­nesses, infra­struc­ture, and other choice oppor­tu­ni­ties to help the aver­age con­sumer be able to work for them­selves, pro­tect them­selves, and achieve any­thing they wish to achieve. Iden­ti­ty­Mon­i­tor comes under the realm of pro­tec­tion for CitiBank cus­tomers, but is avail­able for any­one who is wish­ing to have credit and iden­tity theft protections.

Daily Mon­i­tor­ing for Daily Results

The key to being able to catch an iden­tity thief in the act is to mon­i­tor your infor­ma­tion on a daily basis. Iden­ti­ty­Mon­i­tor does this by mon­i­tor­ing your credit reports every day to deter­mine if any changes have been made to crit­i­cal com­po­nents, such as your address, your delin­quent accounts, or new lines of credit, whether secured or unsecured.

Iden­ti­ty­Mon­i­tor also helps you have a hand in keep­ing your iden­tity safe by pro­vid­ing you a com­plete credit report and credit score analy­sis upon sign­ing up for their iden­tity theft pro­tec­tion ser­vices. You then get access to this infor­ma­tion for free on a monthly basis. This allows you to man­u­ally review your credit infor­ma­tion to insure that all the infor­ma­tion shown is autho­rized by you.

Iden­ti­ty­Mon­i­tor Gives You Effec­tive Alerts

If Iden­ti­ty­Mon­i­tor detects infor­ma­tion that may cause an iden­tity theft to poten­tially occur or believes that a theft has already occurred, then you will be noti­fied via the Notify Express sys­tem that Citibank has set up. This alert sys­tem lets you know when there is any change to your infor­ma­tion that may be an indi­ca­tor of fraud. You can also be noti­fied in the way that works the best for you: through stan­dard U.S. mail, e-mail, text mes­sages, or by a phone call.

Get the Sup­port That You Need

With an Iden­ti­ty­Mon­i­tor sub­scrip­tion, you get around the clock access to your credit infor­ma­tion with a sim­ple log-in. Some folks have ques­tions about what it takes to ade­quately keep their iden­ti­ties and credit safe, If you believe that you have been the vic­tim of iden­tity theft, you also have imme­di­ate access to Citi’s Iden­tity Theft Solu­tions department.

Should you become the vic­tim of iden­tity theft, you have access to a $10,000 – $25,000 insur­ance pol­icy in most states to help you be able to work to recover your iden­tity. This can help you to be able to defend your­self effec­tively, cover the costs of restor­ing your iden­tity, and even cover lost wages that may occur while you are work­ing to restore your iden­tity. It may not be as much as the insur­ance poli­cies of other com­pa­nies, but unlike other iden­tity theft poli­cies, there is no limit to the amount of claims that you can have. Each claim you make gives you access to another policy!

Sign­ing Up for Iden­ti­ty­Mon­i­tor is Easy!

You can sign up today for Iden­ti­ty­Mon­i­tor with­out being a mem­ber of Citibank! All you have to do is fill out your per­sonal infor­ma­tion and once you’ve agreed to the terms and con­di­tions, you’ll have instant access to your Exper­ian credit infor­ma­tion. A sim­ple and free upgrade is all that is required to get all three of the major credit bureau’s infor­ma­tion about you around the clock.

Pric­ing & Value

Iden­ti­ty­Mon­i­tor offers only one plan of ser­vice that cov­ers daily mon­i­tor­ing of your credit infor­ma­tion and assis­tance in restor­ing your iden­tity. You can try Iden­ti­ty­Mon­i­tor for the first 30 days for just $1, and then after­wards is $12.95/month. It should be noted that Citibank, in their terms and con­di­tions, state that they can mod­ify or can­cel the Iden­ti­ty­Mon­i­tor pro­gram, includ­ing a change in the price of the pro­gram, with­out noti­fy­ing you about these changes.

Pro­tect Your Iden­tity & Your Credit Today

Thanks to the Fed­eral bailout, Citibank is more sta­ble than ever when it comes to being able to pro­vide an essen­tial ser­vice to its cus­tomers. Becom­ing a cus­tomer of Citibank to make sure your credit and iden­tity are effec­tively cov­ered puts a bank on your side when it comes to fight­ing for you. Try out Iden­ti­ty­Mon­i­tor today for just a buck and dis­cover how good it feels know­ing that your iden­tity and your credit are in safe hands.


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What You Need To Know About Credit Card Fraud

Types of Credit Card Fraud

Credit card fraud comes in several different forms and even if you don’t currently have any credit cards in your name, you can still become a victim. Criminals are becoming more crafty as they attempt to find ways to steal your credit and use it fraudulently. Here are some of the more common credit card fraud methods that you should familiarize yourself with.

Application fraud: The most common type is the application fraud. Fake or stolen documents are used to open credit card accounts. This is of two types: The card obtained by assuming the identity of someone or by falsifying the financial position to obtain credit.

Assuming the identity of another person is a form of traditional identity theft. The fraudster may create false names and addresses or even steal the identity of an existing person to obtain the card.

Acquiring more credit than entitled, by exaggerating financial position is another common practice. Banks often protect their interests by demanding documents to support the financial claims or by confirming details with the employers.

Stealing: Criminals get hold of your card either by stealing or when you lose it. Postal intercepts are a common form of stealing cards whereby the card is stolen before it reaches the rightful owner by post.

Skimming: This is a type of fraud where the card is cloned or forged without the card owner’s knowledge. The data in the magnetic strip of the card is copied and used. This type of crime is difficult to spot since skimming is exposed only when the next statement is generated. The magnetic strip can be copied by a dishonest employee at the point of sale, with illegal recording devices or by skimming devices installed in cash machines.

Online fraud: Most credit card frauds are committed over the internet. The card details are hacked at the merchant site when being used to make legitimate online purchases. Another common scam is thorough phishing. The phishing sites send out false e-mails or links to fraudulent sites to deceive the card owner to part with card details. These details are then used to make false purchases.

CNP fraud: Purchasing goods on mail order or on telephone without involving a direct seller, where no PIN verification is required, can result in card not present (CNP) fraud. The card details are obtained even from old receipts and since the seller does not verify the PIN number or signature, it becomes difficult to detect such crimes.

BIN attack: Credit cards companies often come under the BIN (Bank Identification Number) attack. Fraudsters generate the last four numbers by obtaining the first six numbers (BIN) of a legitimate card. The cards in the same BIN range have similar data like expiry dates etc.

The key to avoiding such frauds is to be aware and follow safe practices. Always use strong passwords on your internet banking and credit card websites. Do not give secure information on telephone or e-mail. Report a lost card immediately to block any further transaction. Also, consider using a credit monitoring service to keep track of what’s going on with your credit reports. With such simple safe practices, you can ensure that your plastic money is safe.


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