Getting to Know You, Understanding Consumer Reports

Getting to Know You, Understanding Consumer Reports


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By Carrie Kerskie, Director of the Identity Fraud Institute at Hodges University

One of the greatest misconceptions about identity theft is that you can prevent it by refusing to disclose your personal information. Did you know there are companies whose sole source of revenue is the selling of your information? No, I am not referring to the information sold on the black market. I am talking about legitimate organizations that have a legal right to sell your information. These types of organizations, known as consumer reporting agencies (CRA), have been in existence for years. Do you know data is in your CRA files?

FCRA

CRA reports, known as consumer reports, are used by numerous organizations for decision-making purposes. A few examples would be employment, credit and utilities. All of these use data in your consumer report to make their decision to hire or permit you to open an account with them. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) states you have a right to review the data in your CRA files. You are probably familiar with the most common consumer report, a credit report. However, there are many more consumer reports available.

Credit Reports

You are permitted to receive one free report from each credit bureau every 12 months. To request your credit reports, visit www.annualcreditreport.com. This site was created by the three main credit bureaus and the Federal Trade Commission. You will not be asked to provide credit card information. Don’t be fooled by other “free” websites. Many provide a summary of all three reports. The summary does not provide all of the information listed on a full credit report. Save yourself time and aggravation. Only use www.AnnualCreditReport.com. You will be asked a series of identity verifying questions from each bureau. Make sure you have access to your financial records as this will aid you in answering the questions.

Specialty Consumer Reports

There are other types of consumer reports available in addition to credit reports. These are known as specialty reports. Below are a few of the available and known specialty consumer reports. For a more complete list, visit http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201604_cfpb_list-of-consumer-reporting-companies.pdf to download the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s List of Consumer Reporting Companies report. As you will see, the list is rather extensive. It may not be necessary to request every report. Start with one or two, such as the LexisNexis personal report, to get a general idea of what information is available about you.

If you have been a victim of a specific type of identity theft, I suggest requesting reports related to the type of identity theft. If someone has used your information to open a new cell phone account, you might want to request your NCTUE report. For medical identity theft, you may want to request your MIB report. You have the right to all of the reports. How you use that right is up to you.

 Financial

ChexSystems www.chexsystems.com

Telecheck www.FirstData.com/telecheck/telecheck-file-report.html

Early Warning Systems (EWS) call 1-800-325-7775

Certegy Check Services call 1-866-543-6315

Employment

The Work Number https://www.theworknumber.com/Employees/FCRA/ or call 1-866-604-6570

E-Verify https://www.uscis.gov/mye-verify/self-check

Personal Property

Verisk A-Plus Report (claim history) call 1-800-627-3487

LexisNexis C.L.U.E. Report (auto and personal property loss history) https://personalreports.lexisnexis.com/fact_act_disclosure.jsp

General

LexisNexis https://personalreports.lexisnexis.com/

I highly recommend requesting this report. It will give you an idea of the vast amount of information organizations have about you. It will also make you think twice when it comes to creating passwords or security question answers.

Utilities

National Consumer Telecom Utilities Exchange (NCTUE) 1-866-604-6570 or visit http://www.nctue.com/Consumers

The NCTUE is a credit report for the utilities industry. When you request your free credit reports, make sure to add this one to your list. You can also place a freeze on this report just as you can for a credit report.

 Medical

IntelliScript Report (prescription history)

MIB (life and health insurance)

With the vast amount of information one could obtain by requesting consumer reports, you may be thinking, can anyone request my consumer report? The answer is no. The FCRA states that anyone requesting a consumer report must have a permissible purpose for the request. Permissible purposes may include but are not limited to, pre-employment background screening, insurance underwriting and business decisions. When you request your own consumer report, you are asked to verify your identity by either answering questions only you should know the answer to or by requesting proof of ID through specific types of documents. This is done to prevent someone else from requesting your personal consumer reports. If you are asked to mail documents, I suggest sending them certified with a return receipt request. This way, you will receive proof of delivery and greatly reduce the risk of the envelope being intercepted by someone with nefarious intentions.

To learn more about consumer reports, sign up for the “Getting to Know You” workshop on August 8, 2017. Additional information is available at https://www.hodges.edu/identity/events.aspx.