You Will Be Able to Get Free Credit Reports by skp15310


									THE ALERT
VOLUME 20, NO. 1                                               JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2004

                                                                            We Are Changing Our
You Will Be Able to Get Free                                                Senior Helpline Hours
Credit Reports to Check on Fraud                                              To talk to an attorney
                                                                           or to receive a call back
    For the first time, free          reports will not be
                                                                           from an attorney, phone
credit reports from three             available until December
                                                                           the Helpline at 216-861-
major credit reporting                1 of this year under the
                                                                           5479 on Tuesday or
companies will be available           rules proposed by the
once a year for Seniors               Federal          Trade
                                                                           Thursday from 1 to 4 p.m.
and others to check on                Commission.
their own credit standing.                Now      reports are                If  you    have    an
    The free credit report            free only if you have                emergency that can’t wait
provision is just one of the          been denied credit,                  or you just want to make
changes contained in the              insurance or employment              an application for Legal
new Fair and Accurate                 because of your credit               Aid’s services, call 216-
Credit Transactions Act               standing. Reports also               687-1900 any weekday
passed by Congress late               are free if they are                 between 9 and 11:30 a.m.
last year.                            inaccurate because of                and between 1 and 4:30
    However, the free                              (Continued on page 2)   p.m.

You Will Be Able to Get Free
Credit Reports to Check on Fraud ···························································· 1
We Are Changing Our Senior Helpline Hours········································· 1
If You Think Your Identify Has Been Stolen,
Here’s What to Do Now··············································································· 3
How to Contact Credit Bureaus Now ························································ 3
Don’t Pay Big Bucks to Borrow Your Own Tax Refund························· 4
Remember to Get Help with Winter Heating Bills ·································· 4
Senior Citizen Centers and Legal Aid Offices·········································· 5

                               T HE A LERT IS THE NEWSLETTER OF
                         1223 W EST SIXTH STREET , C LEVELAND , OH 44113
       P HONE : 216-687-1900——- FAX : 216-687-0779—— WEB SITE :
PAGE 2                                                                JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2004 ALERT

(Continued from page 1)           theft of computerized records       alert system, so that victims of
fraud, if you are on a public     over which consumers have           identify theft will have to make
assistance program or you         little or no control.               only one call to report the
are unemployed and plan to              Another change in the         crime, rather than having to
look for a job within 60 days.    new law requires merchants          track down every credit card
Usually the reports cost          and restaurants to print out        issuer.
about $9 each.                    only the last five digits of a          The new law also will
    The new law also will give    credit card number on               require businesses to notify
you access to your credit         receipts after December 1.          consumers that negative
score.                                  That change, too, is aimed    information about them will
    The ability to review your    at making identify theft a little   be reported to the credit
credit standing is seen as a      more difficult since some           bureaus.
aid to fighting identity theft.   thieves steal carelessly                This may give early
    Identify theft occurs when    discarded receipts to obtain        warning to victims of identify
someone “steals” your             credit card numbers to use to       theft if the negative information
identity and opens credit         order merchandise by phone.         relates to someone using their
accounts in your name                   Of     course,       many     identify to make purchases
without your knowledge or         businesses already          print   and not paying for them.
makes unauthorized charges        out just the last digits of             The new law also requires
on an existing account.           credit card numbers on              mortgage lenders to reveal
    Often times the crime         receipts.                           credit scores to applicants of
goes undetected because                 The new legislation also      home loans without charging
the victim does not learn of      allows consumers who think          for that information.
the theft until long after it     they may be victims of identity         Additionally,           loan
occurs.                           theft to place “fraud alerts” in    applicants who are not given
    That is why it is             their credit reports to alert       the best rate available from
recommended that everyone         financial institutions not to       a lender must be notified of
regularly check their own         open new accounts or extend         that fact by the lender.
reports with the three major      additional credit without               While some people may
credit reporting agencies to      contacting them. It is possible     regard their credit standing as
find out if they have been        to do that now under some           unimportant, a good credit
victims of identity theft.        circumstances.                      rating can mean getting a
    The Federal Trade                   However, one consumer         more favorable rate on a car
Commission says some 27.3         group questioned how                loan or a mortgage or getting a
million people have been          effective a tool the “fraud         loan or mortgage at all and
victimized by identity theft in   alerts” will be since it found      even may affect the ability to
the past five years, more         where they have been used           rent a house or apartment of
than 9.9 million last year.       they have not been totally          the renter’s choice.
    While some identify theft     effective in stopping the               It is important to review
occurs because of the             issuance of new credit cards.       your credit report and to
carelessness of the victims       In fact, in more than 50% of        challenge any incorrect items.
who discard bills and credit      the “fraud alert” cases             ` The three major credit
c ar d rec ei p t s wi t h ou t   reviewed by the Identify Theft      reporting agencies which will
shredding them or because         Resource Center new cards           be required to provide free
they fail to safeguard their      were issued.                        credit reports later this year
personal information, it also           Another part of the new law   are Equifax, Experian, and
occurs through sophisticated      will set up a national fraud                          (Continued on page 3)
 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2004 ALERT                                                                 PAGE 3

(Continued from page 2
                                     If you think your
                                                                         How To Contact
Trans Union. (See list)              identity has been
                                                                         Credit Bureaus
      Although some of the           stolen, here's what
laws provisions may be                                                        Now
                                     you should do:
favorable to consumers,
others may not be so                                                              Equifax
favorable .                          Contact        the      fraud 
      For     instance,      the     departments of any one of          To order your report, call:
Consumer Federation of               the three major credit                800-685-1111 or write:
America is critical of the new       bureaus to place a fraud           P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta,
law’s provision that prevents        alert on your credit file. The            GA 30374-0241
states from enacting stronger        fraud alert requests creditors   To report fraud, call: 800-525-
laws in some areas of identity       to contact you before            6285 and write:
                                     opening any new accounts         P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA
fraud and credit rights. That
                                     or making any changes to         30374-0241
provision was effective                                               Hearing impaired call 1-800-
December 31, 2003.                   your existing accounts. As
                                     soon as the credit bureau        255-0056 and ask the operator to
      Once your credit is bad,                                        call the Auto Disclosure Line at
you need to be aware that            confirms your fraud alert, the
                                                                      1-800-685-1111 to request a
firms which offer to repair          other two credit bureaus will    copy of your report
your credit for a fee can do         be automatically notified to
no more than you can do for          place fraud alerts, and all
yourself.                            three credit reports will be              Experian -
      Such firms may claim they      sent to you free of charge.
can remove negative                                                     To order your report, call:
information about you from           Close the accounts that you       888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
                                     know or believe have been                  or write:
credit reports. The truth is that
                                     tampered with or opened            P.O. Box 2002, Allen TX
if the information is accurate, it                                                75013
cannot be erased until the time      fraudulently.
                                                                        To report fraud, call: 888-
provided by law.                                                       EXPERIAN (397-3742) and
      For instance, a record of a    File a police report. Get a                  write:
bankruptcy will remain in a          copy of the report to submit       P.O. Box 9530, Allen TX
credit file for 10 years and a       to your creditors and others                 75013
foreclosure will be reported for     that may require proof of the       TDD: 1-800-972-0322
a period of seven years.             crime.
      Be wary of offers to monitor
your credit information for          File a complaint with the               Trans Union -
                                     Federal Trade Commission  
fraud for a fee.
                                     (FTC). It maintains a              To order your report, call:
      The Wall Street Journal                                             800-888-4213 or write:
quotes a spokesman from the          database of identity theft
                                     cases used by law                 P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA
U.S. Public Interest Research                                                      19022
Group as warning that such           enforcement agencies for
                                                                      To report fraud, call: 800-680-
credit monitoring services offer     investigations. A complaint             7289 and write:
little protection and prey on        also helps the FTC learn            Fraud Victim Assistance
consumer’s fears.                    more about identity theft and      Division, P.O. Box 6790,
                                     the problems victims are              Fullerton, CA 92634
                                     having so that it can better         TDD: 1-877-553-7803
                                     assist them.
PAGE 4                                                            JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2004 ALERT

 Don’t Pay Big Bucks to Borrow Your Own Tax Refund
    It’s time to begin                   Since this “fast           or a cash payment even if
thinking about income            money” is really a loan, you       you owe no taxes.
taxes again.                     have to repay all that you             Household adjusted
    When you do, choose          borrowed—even if your              gross income limits for the
your tax preparer very           refund is smaller than you         EITC program are $33,692
carefully.            .          expected or it is held up or       for a single parent or head
    Stay away from tax           denied.                            of household with two
preparers who promise                The best bet, if you are       children; with one child it is
“fast cash refunds,”             a low-income senior, is to         $29,666 and with no
“express money” or “instant      find an AARP Tax Aid Site          children it is $11,230. For a
refunds.”                        or a Volunteer Income Tax          couple filing jointly add
    If you fall for one of       Assistance (VITA) site near        $1,000 in each category.
those promises, you will be      you. At either, you can get            Your investment income
giving yourself a loan.          free tax help. Usually, the        cannot be more than $2,600
    And you will be              sites are located in senior or     to qualify for an Earned
borrowing your own money         community centers, libraries       Income Tax Credit.
at a very high cost.             or even city halls.                    For other requirements
    Typically, such “instant”        To find the closest            on how to qualify for the
or “quick refunds” will cost     AARP Tax Aid Site, phone           credit, check with IRS or
you anywhere between             toll free 1-888-227-7669           your tax preparer.
$30 and $90.                     after January 15.                      If your federal income
    The interest rate you            Call 1-800-TAX-1040 to         tax refund is held up or if
will be paying will probably     find a VITA site near you.         you get a letter from the
be from 60% to more than             On the subject of taxes,       Internal Revenue Service
700%.                            if you are employed and are        about your refund, contact
    If you are willing to wait   a low-income earner check          The Legal Aid Society of
a short time, you will get       to see if you qualify for an       Cleveland at 216-687-1900
your refund directly from        Earned Income Tax Credit.          any weekday between 9
the Internal Revenue                 If you qualify, you may        and 11:30 a.m. and
Service.                         be entitled to a larger refund     between 1 and 4:30 p.m.

Remember to Get Help with Winter Heating Bills
     Low income seniors           Department of Senior and          income for single persons
aged 60 and older and             Adult Services HEAP               must be $13,470 or less for
disabled adults may qualify       coordinator at 216-420-           12 months. For two persons
for financial help to pay         6830.                             it must be $18,180 or less.
winter heating bills through          Seniors in other                   For households with
the federally-funded Home         counties may call 1-800-          more members, add $4,710
Energy Assistance Program         282-0880.                         for each additional person.
(HEAP).                               To qualify for the                 Applications for energy
     Cuyahoga       County        energy      assistance            assistance must be filed
seniors may contact the           programs, household               before March 31, 2004.
JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2004 ALERT                                                                          PAGE 5


                                       CUYAHOGA COUNTY
                       For information or to make an appointment in Cuyahoga County
                                          phone the Senior Helpline
                            on Tuesday or Thursday between 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
                                              at 216-861-5479

                              EAST SIDE                                               WEST SIDE
Buckeye Senior Center                Maple Heights Senior Center           Lakewood Office on Aging
 11802 Buckeye Road                   15901 Libby Road                     16024 Madison Avenue
 216-491-8450                         216-587-5481                         216-521-1515
Emeritus House Senior Center         Martin DePorres Center               Metro Health Hospital
 (at Indian Hills)                    1264 East 123 Street                 2500 Metro Health Drive
 1554 East 193 Street                 216-268-3909                         216-778-5551
                                     Murtis H. Taylor Center              Parma Senior Resource Center
Fairhill Institute                    13422 Kinsman Avenue                 7001 West Ridgewood
 12200 Fairhill Road                  216-283-4400                         440-885-8155
                                     Stella Walsh Recreational Center     West Side Legal Aid Office
Goodrich-Gannett Center                7345 Broadway Avenue                3408 Lorain Avenue
 1368 East 55 Street                   216-441-0111                        216-961-6630
                                     Woodland Branch                                  DOWNTOWN
Helen S. Brown Senior Center         Cleveland Public Library
 16100 Euclid Avenue                  5806 Woodland Avenue
 216-761-8410                          216-623-7109                       Downtown Legal Aid Office
                                                                           1223 West Sixth Street
Hough Opportunity Center
 8555 Hough Avenue
                                                                           Extension 5336

                 For information or to make appointments outside Cuyahoga County
                                    phone the offices listed below

                                             LAKE COUNTY
                   Lake-Geauga Legal Aid, 8 North State Street, Painesville, OH 44077
                            440-352-6200 or TOLL FREE 1-888-808-2800

                                             LORAIN COUNTY
             The Legal Aid Society of Lorain County, 538 West Broad Street, Elyria, OH 44035
                              440-323-8240 or TOLL FREE 1-800-444-7348

                                        ASHTABULA COUNTY
                    Ashtabula County Legal Aid, 121 East Walnut, Jefferson, OH 44047
                              440-576-8120 or TOLL FREE 1-866-873-9665
The Legal Aid Society
 of Cleveland
1223 West Sixth Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44113

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