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Warning: Free Credit Report Imposter Websites Springing Up on the Web

A recent amendment to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies to provide consumers with a free copy of their credit report, upon request, once every 12 months.

Access to the free credit reports has been phased in beginning last December in the West and will finally be nationwide by 1 September. This is good news to consumers.

However, a new form of phishing, is manifesting itself even before access to free credit reports is available for all Americans.

The new law that requires the three national credit bureaus to provide a free annual credit report to consumers, has met with the law of unintended consequences. Although the law was initially created to help thwart identity theft, the process for requesting the free credit reports may in fact contribute to further identity theft or loss of privacy.

While the intent of the law was to make it easier for consumers to check for errors and possible evidence of identity theft in their credit reports, according to a new report by the World Privacy Forum, more than 200 imposter websites have sprung up trying to exploit one of the methods made available for consumers to apply for their free credit reports.

One of the methods by which consumers can apply for their free credit reports is through a website that was established jointly by the three credit bureaus. The official website for applying for the free credit reports is at http://www.annualcreditreport.com

But, if the identity thieves and other unscrupulous internet swindlers have their way, part of the very process sent up in an attempt to curtail identity theft, will leave consumers vulnerable to further loss of privacy.

The online pilferers create websites with domain names that are very close to the official website www.annualcreditreport.com. By registering similar names or close misspellings, such as wwwannualcreditreport.com (note the missing dot), creditannualreport.com and www.freeannualcreditreports.com they hope to entice consumers to unwittingly enter their private information into online web forms, thinking that they are on the official website.

Depending upon the level of personal information detail captured from the imposter websites, the swindlers can then use the garnered information for illegal purposes, sell the information to purveyors of personal information databases, or they can simply send the unsuspecting consumer to commercial websites.

While the majority of imposter websites, simply gather names, addresses, and email addresses and then send the consumer on to advertising sites, some sites attempt to gather social security numbers, birth dates, and other sensitive information.

To guard against the possibility of entering personal information on an imposter site, consumers can go to the official website from a link off from the www.ftc.gov website or call the official toll free number (877-322-8228) to get the free copy of their credit report.

Note: Strange as it may seem, your free annual credit report does not contain your credit score. For more information on your credit score, what it is, how it is used, and why it is important, see the resource box below.

Copyright 2005 George Dodge

George Dodge has been developing on the Web since 1994 and is owner of http://www.The-Credit-Repair-Center.com a source of information on personal finance management. For information on how you can also get a free copy of your credit score (which is NOT included with your annual free credit report), click here -> http://www.The-Credit-Repai r-Center.com/scores/credit-scores.html Your Credit Score - Do You Know What It Is?

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