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					January 2006

Nora’s Notes: Free Credit Reports Help Fight Identity Theft, Fraud
By Nora Dowd Eisenhower, Secretary of Aging

A new federal law gives Pennsylvanians a better opportunity to fight against identity theft and
credit reporting errors. Under the new law, consumers may obtain a free copy of their credit
reports once every 12 months.

Information from your credit report and credit score is used to determine if you qualify and the
rates you pay for insurance and loans. It can also be a factor in whether or not you are approved
for an apartment or even a job.

Unfortunately, errors can appear on your credit report because of mistakes or identity theft. A
recent national study found that one in four credit reports contains errors that are serious enough
to result in the denial of credit. For example, you may discover an account listed on your record
that does not belong to you. People with a common first and last name often experience this
problem.

Experian, Equifax and Trans Union, the three major credit reporting bureaus, share a centralized
source where you can order your credit reports. You may visit www.annualcreditreport.com to see
your reports instantly; or call 877-322-8228 or write Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O.
Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

If you find an error or believe you have been a victim of fraud, contact the credit bureau that
issued the report in question and file a dispute. The bureau will have 45 days to investigate and
resolve the issue. Be sure to keep copies of everything you send and follow up phone calls with
letters.

Also contact the company that holds the account in dispute. This company must provide you with
your information that they have on file.

Credit reports are free under the new law, but credit scores are not. It is recommended that you
purchase from the reporting bureaus at least one low-priced score, for about $4-7, and avoid the
high-priced credit monitoring services. Look for the “FICO” score, which is most widely used by
lenders.

Don’t fall victim to e-mail and Internet scams that offer credit reports as a way to try to capture
your personal information. This is known as “phishing.” For your own protection, deal only with
the major credit bureaus - Experian, Equifax and Trans Union - through the contact information
listed above.

By taking these easy steps, older Pennsylvanians can better track their own credit history and
guard against becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud.