San Diego, CA. An estimated 60 percent of identity theft victims, over the past few years, did not find out they were a victim until they sat down with a qualified reviewer of credit reports or looked at them on their own or were contacted by a creditor about a delinquent account.
Credit scores, which are reported to credit grantors, but not revealed unless the consumer pays a fee, are playing an increasingly important role in the credit granting process. Items of a negative nature, which a credit report review may later show to be inaccurate, lower credit scores. Credit scores range from about 400 to 800, while the average seems to be 678, according to a recent Experian press release.
The new Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) provides free credit reports for all consumers that will become available in December 2004, first in western states and then gradually spread in states going eastward to the Atlantic coast, which will have their free reports by April 2005.
FACTA also provides many other new protections and rights for consumers, especially for victims of identity theft and help for those who are disputing inaccuracies. Active duty military members who are serving outside the USA may have "active duty alerts" placed on their credit files. Victims of identity theft can block unauthorized accounts from appearing on credit files and more. But, you have to know your rights in order to utilize and take advantage of them.
Sadly, most Americans will not review their credit reports unless and until they encounter a problem obtaining credit or belatedly discover someone else is using their good credit. It doesn't seem to make any difference whether the credit reports are free or not. "If it's not broke, don't fix it", is how most consumer say they feel when asked. This lackadaisical approach could be very expensive for a number of reasons. Credit reports are either helping a consumer or hurting them everywhere in the marketplace, from mortgages, insurance, apartment, employment and unsecured credit.
Lower credit scores equal higher interest rates and fees, when and if credit is available. A credit report review by a trained professional may identify things in a credit report that are hurtful to a credit score and thereby making better interest rates available when borrowing.
One of the major goals of the ICFE's Credit Report Review Program is education about credit reports. How to read and understand the reports is important for the consumer to learn. Also important are methods used to spot suspicious activity which might be the early beginnings of identity theft.
Many financial educators, casually polled by the ICFE, agree one of the major reasons why millions of consumers who have free credit reports available to them don't access them is because they don't think they will understand them. They are are reluctant to ask for help, especially if they have bad credit, because they want to avoid embarrassment.
Everyone served by an ICFE Certified Credit Report Reviewer (CRR) is given detailed instructions on how to get their own credit files before their appointments, if they don't have recent copies already. Included with each credit report review is a list of detailed steps to take to make any changes and corrections in addition to take steps to prevent identity theft. Also included is a copy of the ICFE's Do-It-Yourself Credit File Correction Guide (FACTA-2004 Edition) to help with communicating to the credit reporting agencies.
About a half million people will become victims of identity theft in 2004. Reviewing credit reports on a regular basis, with a trained and qualified credit report reviewer is among the latest weapons in guarding against ID theft. This is done by employing several preventative steps coupled with early detection.
Financial and insurance planners, debt and credit counselors, credit union and banking representatives in addition to mortgage lenders and real estate agents are among the first hundred plus candidates for Certification as a Credit Report Reviewer. A San Diego based debt management firm will have over 50 of their counselors certified by the end of June 2004. Additionally a Midwest insurance firm enrolled 50 district managers to be certified as credit report reviewers and will also train many of its field agents.
Credit Report Reviewers aren't immune from credit file inaccuracies. One recently report she'd discovered mistakes while taking the required educational study program on the new FACTA law. After an examination, she becomes certified by the award winning, nonprofit Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE) based in San Diego, CA. The ICFE has been publishing do-it-yourself credit file correction guides for counselors and consumers for the last 12 years, and just updated it again in April with the FACTA 2004 edition.
For more information about a credit report review or how to get certified* as an ICFE Credit Report Reviewer, please visit www.icfe.info.
* The Credit Report Reviewer program is $250, with a $50 introductory discount available through June 2004. Quantity discounts and in-house certification classes are also available.
If you have a question for the ICFE Board of Educational Advisors, please visit www.icfe.info. @ www.icfe.info.