The Top 5 Tips for Protecting your Credit Identity...

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It's widely reported that at least 79 percent of all credit reports contain some type of error. These errors can block a consumer from obtaining employment, housing or affordable interest rates and insurance premiums.

Inaccuracies can create the appearance of a consumer having "too much" credit available, being over-extended, and ultimately, falsely, as a poor credit risk. Often times the consumer is unaware there is even a problem contained in their credit reports until they apply for credit and the fun begins! Aside from inaccuracies, we now have to be concerned with monitoring our credit reports for fraudulent activity caused by fraud and identity theft -the fastest growing crime in America.

1. 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 going to the officially mandated site at Place fraud alerts on your credit reports if you believe you have been or could become a victim of identity theft.

2. Review your credit reports from Experian, TransUnion and Equifax and dispute all account inaccuracies on the form that comes with each credit report. All inaccuracies need to be disputed and returned to the credit bureau (best -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 -they 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

Aside from fraud and identity theft complaints, many common errors found in credit reports include:

• inaccurate personal information such as misspelled names, wrong Social Security numbers, inaccurate birth dates, inaccurate information about a spouse and out of date address and employment information

• "closed" accounts listed as "open

• Duplicate accounts using different account numbers relating to the same mortgage or loan. This mistake is common and often occurs when loans are serviced or sold

• Co-mingling of credit belonging to someone one with a similar name (or family member)

• Notations of late fees for accounts that were paid on time

• Bogus debt collection accounts and re-aged old "zombie" medical debts are often erroneously reported to the credit bureaus without the consumers knowledge.

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