On Your Side Alert: Warning about credit report schemes

On Your Side Alert: Warning about credit report schemes

By now you probably know you can get a free credit report from all three agencies once a year. The problem is crooks also know it too. Many times they will blast out bogus emails hoping you will click a malicious link.

It is a message we hear often from consumer advocates. Check your credit score, and for good reason. It gives you an idea of what accounts are open in your name and it lets you keep track of any suspicious activity. It's good to be cautious about your credit history, but don't drop your guard when it comes to cyber safety.

The Federal Trade Commission warns about what it calls impostor websites, or companies that offer credit information at no cost, as an enticement to enroll in their service.

Credit counselors like Terrence Banks say also watch out for phishing emails designed to steal your private information. "Scammers are looking for ways to infiltrate you by utilizing well known companies and putting viruses in there, where they can capture your information," he said.

Banks says crooks can try to deceive you a number of ways, they may tell you your credit score has changed, or try to fool you by saying there is an alert on your account. "Falling for a scam can definitely have a huge impact on your score by the person actually utilizing your name to obtain credit," he said. 

The important thing to remember is that the three major credit reporting companies are required to give you a free report once year. The safest and the only way recommended by the government to get those reports is through a website called https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action

Consumer experts say be leery of offers asking you to sign up for free trials to any kind of subscription service.

You shouldn't have to sign up for anything to receive your free credit report. Also, never trust unsolicited phone calls or emails about your credit history or score. "Make sure they are from an official site. I would double check with going back to https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action, double check the URL to make sure that is coming from a site that you signed up for, make sure it's coming from them," Banks explains.

Cyber crooks can be convincing, so keep in mind, https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action and the nationwide credit reporting companies will not send emails or call you asking for your personal information. If you see something suspicious report to the FTC at spam@uce.gov.