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Free Credit Report ? Watch Out for Scams

Many people may still not be aware of an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) that Congress passed last year. This amendment allows U.S. citizens to receive a copy of their credit report, for free, once per year. The plan is being rolled out slowly in order to avoid swamping the system, but people living in the West and Midwest can receive their credit reports now, and everyone will be able to obtain a free credit report by September of this year. Those seeking a copy of their credit report should watch out, however, as not everyone who promises a "free" credit report is actually delivering one.

These free credit reports may be obtained through the official Website: http://www.annualcreditreport.com. Additional information is available at the Federal Trade Commission Website at http://www.ftc.gov/credit. Obtaining a copy of your credit report through this site is easy, and only requires your name, Social Security number, date of birth, and address. That would seem fairly straightforward, but there are many companies, some legitimate and some not, that are interested in attracting the business of those who seek copies of their credit report, and scams are flourishing.

Some companies have established Websites with addresses that are very similar to the address of the official site. These sites promise a free credit report, but they are actually only interested in harvesting your personal information. In addition to stealing your name, Social Security number and address, these sites may also tell you that a credit card number is necessary to "verify" your identification. With this information, the people operating these sites can steal your identity! There are many other Websites that promise "free" credit reports, but few that actually provide them for free. One such site is currently under investigation for credit report fraud. The site promised a "free" report, but required a credit card for "identification" purposes. Customers filled out the form and received a copy of the credit report but also received a charge on their credit card for $79.

Other unscrupulous companies take a more direct approach by sending spam e-mail that promises to provide free credit reports. These spam messages are almost always "phishing" expeditions that are designed only to obtain your personal information. If you are interested in obtaining a copy of your credit report, you should avoid responding to e-mail solicitations.

It is a rare occasion when you can obtain something for nothing. You can, however, receive a copy of your credit report, for free, once a year. Be aware, however, that not everyone who is promising you a free credit report intends to provide you with one.

?Copyright 2005 by Retro Marketing.

Charles Essmeier is the owner of Retro Marketing, a firm devoted to informational Websites, including End-Your-Debt.com, a site devoted to debt consolidation and credit counseling, and StructuredSettlementHelp.com, a site devoted to information regarding structured settlements.

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