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  • Throwback Thursday: How to Monitor Your Credit Report Year-Round for Free

    This post was originally published last year, and is still a good reminder.

    How to Monitor Your Credit Report for Free - chieffamilyofficer.com

    A while back, the credit bureaus started providing free credit reports to consumers (as required by law). At AnnualCreditReport.com, you can get a free report from each credit bureau every 12 months. That’s three free reports each year.

    Experts recommend checking your credit report on a regular basis to catch evidence of identity theft in the early stages (the more damage that’s been done, the more work it will take to fix). So instead of getting three reports at once each year, it makes sense to spread out your three free reports over the course of a year and get one from each credit bureau every four months. While the information contained on each report differs slightly, monitoring reports more frequently should help you catch any illegal activity sooner than if you only checked once per year.

    You should also check your insurance policies as some may include free or inexpensive riders for identity theft assistance. You can take advantage of these programs if you suspect you are a victim of identity theft, or even if there is suspicious activity on your credit report. In fact, a few months ago, my husband and I spotted a suspicious inquiry on one of our credit reports, and took advantage of the rider on our homeowner’s insurance policy to help us figure out what it was. It turned out to be innocuous, but since repairing your credit history after identity theft can be difficult, it’s nice to know that there are experts in our corner if we ever need them!

    Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by Victor Habbick.

    Monitoring Your Credit Report

    A few years ago, it became possible for consumers to get a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com. You can get one free report each year from Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.

    One way to maximize your access to your credit reports is to obtain one credit report from one of the credit bureaus every four months. That works out to three reports per year, so one report per credit bureau. But spreading out your requests throughout the year makes it easier to catch something hinky sooner rather than later.

    I failed to take my own advice and it had been a couple of years since my husband and I had checked our credit reports. I’d forgotten how easy it is to do, and they’ve made it easier to understand each section. I was also able to print the report as well as download a digital copy.

    Now I’m setting up email reminders in my Google Calendar to remember to request a copy of our credit reports every four months. The credit bureaus vary slightly in their reporting. And since we have combined finances, I’ve decided to request reports from different bureaus for myself and my husband each time, which should further maximize our chances of catching anything untoward.

    One good thing we did a couple of years ago was add an inexpensive rider to our homeowner’s insurance policy – for $25 per year, we get Identity Restoration services. So when we had a question about something on one of our credit reports, we just called our insurance company and they’re investigating it for us. Hopefully it’ll turn out to be nothing, but I’m feeling the $25 per year is money well spent.

    There are, of course, companies that will monitor credit activity for you. But it’s easy to do yourself – just don’t forget to set those reminders!

    Banner ad via Logical Media.

    3 Signs You May be a Victim of Tax-Related Fraud

    The following is a guest post from ID theft expert Brian Lapidus, chief operating officer of Kroll’s Fraud Solutions.


    1. You are unable to file your return electronically, because a prior return included your SSN.

    Take Action:

    Submit your return by paper and include proof of SSN ownership (i.e., a registered letter from the Social Security Administration).

    2. You have received a W2 or 1099 form from a company with whom you have never been employed nor had a financial relationship.

    Take action:

    Contact the company in question by phone, with a follow-up letter, to request a corrected W2 or 1099, maintaining call notes and copies of all related documentation. If receipt of document was not due to an error by reporting company, file a police report.

    Maintain records until you receive a notice from the IRS.

    3. You received a notice from the IRS advising you of unclaimed wages or income.

    Take action:

    Contact the assigned IRS agent listed on the notification. He/she will work with you to ensure that you are not held liable for any fraud-related or errant wages/earnings.

    If you do not notify the IRS of a dispute, the IRS will assume the reporting is accurate. As a result, the wages/income will be processed and the IRS will send you a bill. Continued failure to notify the IRS can result in wage garnishment or tax levies.

    Follow all instructions and provide all information or documentation to the assigned IRS agent, as requested.

    An open plea to the neighbors who ended up with our mail: please return it, pronto!

    I feel bad for J.D. of Get Rich Slowly – a couple of days ago, someone stole some mail from his mailbox. Unfortunately, I can relate only too well to how he’s feeling. You see, sometime last week, our mail carrier put our tax organizer package sent by our accountant in one of neighbor’s mailboxes.

    At least, I’m surmising that’s what happened to the package (I’ll call it a package but it’s really a thick envelope). I know it was sent out on the 5th and that it hasn’t arrived yet. I’ve double checked with our accountant to make sure they sent it to the right address. Our mailbox is in a communal area, and apparently the mail hasn’t been delivered by our regular carrier lately since there have been lots of envelopes left out for the rightful addressee.

    Normally, I wouldn’t worry so much, but the package apparently contains one document that lists our social security numbers. I’m not sure why the accountant sent the package to our house since they have our PO Box on file too. Of course, as I’ve mentioned, we haven’t been impressed by the woman who took over from our last accountant. It’s looking more and more like we’ll be looking for someone else to handle our accounting matters for us next year.

    In the meantime, I want to say to the neighbors who ended up with our mail:

    I don’t want to believe that one of our neighbors would commit identity theft. I want to believe that you’ve simply thrown your mail into a pile and not sorted through it yet, and haven’t realized that you’re sitting on something important to us. Please return the package to us, unopened, so that I don’t have to worry for eternity that our social security numbers are out there for some enterprising unethical thief to have wreak havoc with. Let me also say, in the nicest way possible, that if you do decide to engage in criminal behavior with the information in that package, I will do everything I can to see that you are prosecuted and sent to jail. So please, just return the *$(& package!

    Update: I’m feeling a little foolish now. The package postmarked February 5 arrived today, several hours after I published this post. I don’t understand why it takes the USPS 10 days to deliver something from Santa Monica, but I’m very relieved to know that our social security numbers aren’t compromised. Whew!