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Scammers Using Credit Report to Lure Victims

By Faye Mergel
Published: Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Consumers reported that they have been getting electronic mails from Equifax telling them to check their credit report because of negative items that could affect their rating. But experts tell consumers that the credit reporting agencies (CRAs) will not send those kinds of e-mails. Worse, they could come from scammers.

Scammers Using Credit Report to Lure VictimsAccording to specialists, Equifax will not send consumers an e-mail advising them to check their credit report because it has a problem. It is the responsibility of consumers to keep track of their accounts so CRAs like Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion will not tell anyone to check his credit report. Those CRAs might send solicitations, but only on very rare occasions, experts say.

Spam e-mails that alert consumers usually lead them to commercial sites which charge them high fees for services that could normally be availed for free. Experts say consumers can get their credit report from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion for no fee at all through annualcreditreport.com, the government-backed site which requires the three major bureaus to provide consumers one free copy of their report once a year. Specialists add that the right to a free check is outlined in the revision of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) that was initially signed into law three decades ago. But there is no law yet allowing consumers a free peak into their credit score so they must bear with the $7 fee for now, specialists say.

Experts also warn consumers about credit report scams which lure consumers by pretending to be free sites. They call such practice “phishing.” Emails used in phishing appear to come from legitimate institutions such as the CRAs or the consumers’ own banks.

Consumers who think that they may have fallen victim to scammers are advised to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Those who have given personal identifying information are advised to immediately file a report with the FTC to reduce the damage that could be caused on their credit. To file a complaint, consumers are advised to call FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline at (877) 438-4338, or visit the agency’s ID theft page at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/.

Consumers who have provided their credit card number are advised to contact their creditor and have those accounts closed.

The Federal Trade Commission will guide consumers on the next steps to take in order to protect their identity. Specialists add that it is best for consumers to file a complaint with local law enforcement units.

Finally, consumers are advised to check their credit report a few months after they filed their complaint to make sure that no fraud has been committed against them.

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