As knowledgeable consumers we need to be proactive about monitoring our personal financial data. Here are a few ideas on how to do that which won’t cost you anything and are well worth a little effort:
You can start by creating your own credit monitoring service by getting a free copy of your credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com , the only authorized site under federal law. You are entitled to one free report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. If you can order one from a different bureau every four months you are able to tabs on your credit over the entire year and the information is usually very much the same in each of the credit bureaus.
FREEZE YOUR CREDIT
You should freeze your credit files at the three major bureaus; so that no company can look at your report, other than the institutions you already do business with. Since creditors typically will not open up a new account without accessing your report, this decreases the chances that a thief will be able to open up an account in your name. However, freezes are not bulletproof. A thief could try to open an account with a company you are already doing business with, or they might take over an existing account and redirect bills and e-mail to another address. You can put Freezes in place through each of the three bureaus’ Web sites, www.equifax.com www.experian.com and www.transunion.com . The fees for freezes vary from state to state but they are usually nominal and well worth it and in many states they are free. Remember you will need to remove the freeze if you are applying for new credit like a mortgage.
Always check credit card and other financial statements for any suspicious transactions, and notify your financial institution immediately if you notice any. Consumers are not liable for any unauthorized use of their accounts. It is really a good habit to get into to check all of your accounts weekly because that way you stay on top of any problem. I can check six accounts in less than 10 minutes just by going to the institutions web site and checking my current transactions.
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