State Senator Hugh T. Farley (R,C - Schenectady) reminds New Yorkers that under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), they will be able to order one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three credit reporting agencies beginning in September.
Senator Farley said to order, click on www.annualcreditreport.com, call (877) 322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. New Yorkers can order their free reports beginning Sept. 1st. Forms are available at the website www.annualcreditreport.com, or at Senator Farley's office at 412 LOB, Albany; 2430 Riverfront Center, Amsterdam; or 33-41 East Main St., Johnstown.
Senator Farley said for those individuals who want to request their free credit reports by mail, copies of the request application form will also be available at his booth at the Fonda Fair from Aug. 30th through Sept. 5th. Senator's booth is located inside the Grandstand building.
"By checking your credit report on a regular basis, you can catch mistakes that might affect your credit rating," Senator Farley said. "Also, you can determine whether an identity thief has opened accounts in your name."
"Previously, most people didn't bother running a credit check on themselves because of the fees involved," Senator Farley said. "Some companies charged a fee, or required a consumer to purchase additional products in order to receive the report. Starting September 1st, New Yorkers can obtain a free credit report annually from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion."
Senator Farley said a person can order all three credit reports at the same time, which would allow the person to compare them, or order one now and others later in the year, which helps monitor developments over the year.
Senator Farley also warns people to be aware of other unofficial offers of "free" reports with strings attached, such as charging to join a credit monitoring service. The Senator also said to not give out personal information -- especially Social Security, bank or credit card numbers -- to unsolicited callers.
"You cannot buy a service that will fix a bad credit report or remove negative information," Senator Farley said. "The FTC cautions consumers to be wary of companies that make claims regarding credit repair. These companies don't do anything that consumers cannot already do for themselves at little or no cost. Beware of any organization that offers to create a new identity and credit file for you. In contrast, there are steps you can take to improve your credit score, and there are legitimate non-profit credit counseling services which can provide advice and assistance to help you with your budget and manage your debts."
Senator Farley also gives suggestions on guarding your identity:
* Guard your computer password and use only secure lines to transmit financial information via the Internet. Look for an unbroken key or lock in the corner of your computer screen to signify a secure connection.
* Ask why a merchant needs private information, how it will be used and secured, and whether it will be shared with others. Ask if you can choose to have it kept confidential.
* Know the privacy policies of businesses with which you deal and websites that you visit.
* Ask about information security procedures in your workplace. Find out who has access to your personal information and verify that records are kept in a secure location. Ask about the disposal procedures for those records as well.
* Guard your mail and trash from theft. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox and deposit outgoing mail in official post office boxes. Tear or shred documents that contain personal information before depositing in the trash.
* Don't give credit card, debit card or bank account information over the Internet or phone, unless you've initiated the contact and/or you are dealing with an established business that you know.
* Don't give your Social Security number to anyone, except your employer, government agencies, lenders and credit bureaus.
For more information on identity theft, call Senator Farley's office for a free brochure at 455-2181 (Albany), 843-2188 (Amsterdam), 762-3733 (Johnstown) or toll-free at (800) 224-5201.