Understanding your credit report is an important part of your financial wellness. Most experts recommend that you check your credit history at least a once a year.
- Credit reports may affect your loan rates, credit card approvals, apartment requests, or even your job application.
- Reviewing credit reports helps you catch signs of identity theft early.
- You should ensure that the information on all of your credit reports is correct and up to date.
Free Annual Credit Report
Federal law requires each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies - Equifax, Experian and Transunion to provide you with a free credit report every 12 months if you ask for it. They also make it easy to accomplish many credit-related tasks right from your computer.
Please visit Annualcreditreport.com for access to your free annual credit report from each of the three nationwide reporting agencies.
Don't Be Fooled
Lots of sites promise credit reports for free. Annualcreditreport.com is the only official site explicitly directed by Federal law to provide them to consumers at no cost!
Shopping Safely Online
Let's face it, there's every reason in the world to shop online. The bargains are there. The selection is mind-boggling. The shopping is secure. Shipping is fast. Even returns are pretty easy, with the right e-tailers. It's a golden age for not going to the store, yet buying more than ever.
Here are some tips for staying safe while shopping online...
1. Use Familiar Web Sites
Start at a trusted site rather than shopping with a search engine. Search results can get rigged to lead you astray, especially when you drift past the first few pages of links. If you know the site, chances are it's less likely to be a rip off.
2. Look for the Lock
Never ever, ever buy anything online using your credit card from a site that doesn't have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed—at the very least. You'll know if it has it because the URL for the site will start with HTTPS:// (instead of just HTTP://) and an icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically in the status bar at the bottom of your Web browser.
3. Don't Tell All
No online shopping store is going to need your social security number or your birthday to do business. But if a bad-guy gets them, combined with your credit card number for purchases, they can do a lot of damage.
4. Check Your Statements
Don't wait for your bill to come at the end of the month. Go online regularly and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts.
5. Protect Your PC
Bad-guys don't just sit around waiting for you to give them data; sometimes they give you a little something extra to help things along. You need to protect against such Trojan horse malware with regular updates to your anti-virus program.
6. Use Strong Passwords
We like to beat this dead horse about making sure to utilize uncrackable passwords, but it's never more important than when banking and shopping online.
8. Stay at Home
It's a bad idea to use a public computer to make purchases. If you do, just remember to log out every time you use a public terminal, even if you were just checking e-mail.
Identity Theft 101
Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information without your permission. They may open a credit card account, get a loan, or rent apartments in your name using your personal information. You may not know that identity theft has happened until you see your credit report, are notified when trying to apply for credit, or get called by a debt collector.
How to protect yourself from Identity Theft
- Destroy or shred documents that include personal information before disposing of them
- Password-protect your computer and other devices, and use anti-virus software
- Use caution when sharing account numbers and personal information online or over the phone
- Beware of phishing phone calls or emails where criminals ask you to provide your information to them
- Monitor your credit card accounts and bank statements
- Always clear your personal information before donating or selling computers and other devices
- Obtain your free annual credit report and review it for accuracy
For more information about identity theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission's website or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's website.