Take the time to protect your credit -and your home!

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•Obtain your free credit report from the right place. There is one authorized place mandated by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act of 2005 that allows consumers a free annual credit report. You can order your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus by calling the toll free number at 877-322-8228 or you can order from the official site at annualcreditreport.com (just be sure to pay close attention to their privacy policy. There has been reports that their policy stipulates that by using the site you may be waiving privacy rights and allowing them to sell your information to third parties).

•Review your credit report and dispute all account inaccuracies on the form that comes with your credit report. All inaccuracies need to be disputed and returned to the credit bureau via certified mail. Be attentive to items such as; accounts that were paid timely but indicate they were paid late or reflect an overdue balance and take note of accounts that are more than seven years old and should be removed from your report. The credit bureaus have 30 days to investigate your disputes and forward you the results of their investigation along with an amended credit report.

•Detect inaccurate addresses, erroneous employment notations or mistaken name variations. These types of inaccuracies can be an early tip off that someone else's credit is co-mingled with yours or that someone else is using your credit and must also be disputed. Also watch for any new credit inquiries you did not initiate and dispute any accounts that do not belong to you.

•Examine your credit card statements. Aside from reviewing current charges applied to your credit card, it is equally important to pay close attention to your interest rates...any rate spike can be a predictor of unknown, derogatory credit data contaminating your credit file that will also affect the price of your auto and homeowners insurance premiums.

Review all auto, student loan and mortgage statements. Monthly statements need to be reviewed in order to verify that your payments were received and applied accurately. If you don't receive monthly statements, and don't have access to a statement on line, call your lender and ask for a payment history schedule at least every six months. Watch for erroneously applied late fees for payments made timely, misapplied additional principal payments and ascertain if your escrow accounts (taxes and insurance) were paid in time for you to receive the standard discounts, often offered by city taxing authorities, when taxes are paid within a mandated time frame.

It is imperative that you review your credit reports on a regular basis. But it's equally important to review your monthly loan statements as well. If you are paying a mortgage, student or auto loan with a coupon book -and without the benefit of a monthly statement...be careful. It's important to track and verify how and if your payments are applied. By using payment coupon books, consumers are forced to blindly trust that their payments are being applied timely and accurately.

To facilitate the tracking of our payments, we need monthly statements providing us the breakdown of principal, interest and escrow payments applied monthly. The use of payment coupon books is exacerbating mortgage servicing errors, negligence and fraud. Illegal late charges have been applied when payments were made timely, taxes and insurance escrows are not routinely paid on behalf of the consumer timely, and additional principal payments and/or monthly principal and interest payments can not be verified. Costly errors or fraud against the borrower often go undetected, until too late and then become impossible to correct without placing a huge burden on the borrower to prove their innocence.

These serious errors have the effect of extending the life of the loan and the amount of interest accrued without the consumer's knowledge. Too many times, costly errors and illegal fees are often discovered too late and force innocent consumers into foreclosure when they believe they have made all payments due and are completely unaware of any problem. They are forced into forbearance agreements that remove a borrower's right to pursue legal action.

Do you know where your payments are going?
Do you send in extra principal payments without verifying how they are applied?
How many foreclosures could have been averted had borrowers been made aware their mortgage was sold to another servicing company or their payments were not applied accurately?

Read a few comments and then you decide. For further information... visit msfraud.org

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