Identity Theft & Credit
Fair Credit Reporting
Your local credit bureau maintains a credit history on you that is available to creditors. According to the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act:
- You have the right to know what is contained in your credit file. If you have been denied credit, employment, or insurance within the last 30 days, the credit bureau must show you your complete file free of charge. Otherwise, you may be charged a reasonable fee.
- Your credit report can be shown to those who need such information for insurance or employment applications.
- Most information in your file can only be reported for seven years.
- If you inform the credit bureau of inaccurate information in your file, the information must be investigated, errors must be corrected and creditors who received the incorrect information must be advised of the changes.
- If there is a dispute about information in your file which cannot be resolved, you may have your version of the dispute placed in the file for future credit reports.
For free brochures on the Fair Credit Reporting Act, call the Office of Consumer Protection at 215-348-6060.
Truth in Lending
The Truth in Lending Act provides these rights:
- Periodic statements must be mailed to consumers using credit cards and revolving charge accounts insufficient time to avoid finance charges by prompt payment.
- The issuance of unsolicited credit cards is prohibited. Unless the card is accepted, you may not be held liable for any charges made.
- Cardholder liability for lost or stolen credit cards is the lesser of $50 or the amount charged prior to notification of the loss.
- Creditors must disclose to you the total finance charge, including all charges such as placement fees and insurance, the annual percentage rate of interest, and the amount of each monthly payment and the number of payments required.
- A creditor can require you to take out insurance to guarantee that a debt will be paid should you die, get sick, or become disabled or to cover damage to property which is collateral for the debt.
- If insurance is required, the premium charges must be included when computing the annual percentage rate. If you voluntarily request insurance or if you choose to obtain it from an outside insurance company, then the costs need not be included in the annual percentage fee.
For free brochures on the Truth in Lending Act, call the Office of Consumer Protection at 215-348-6060
The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits discrimination in a credit transaction. It does not, however, guarantee that you will get credit. According to the Act:
- Discrimination because of sex, marital status, race, national origin, religion or age is prohibited.
- Except for voluntary information needed to enforce the above anti-discrimination laws, a creditor cannot ask your race, sex, national origin or religion.
- A creditor may not request your marital status if the application is for individual, unsecured credit. Marital status may be requested in other instances.
- A creditor cannot ask whether you are divorced or widowed or about your plans for having children.
- A credit application must be accepted or denied within 30 days. If denied, the creditor must either state the specific reason for denial or tell you of your right to request that reason within 60 days.
- If otherwise credit-worthy, a woman has the right to have a separate account in her maiden name.
- Where both spouses use or are liable on an account, credit information must be supplied in the names of both spouses.
For free brochures on the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, call the Office of Consumer Protection at 215-348-6060.
Obtaining Credit Reports
We suggest obtaining a copy of your credit report on a yearly basis to make sure everything is correct and that there are no unauthorized accounts opened. You can obtain a credit report from the following agencies:
Credit Repair Scams
FEDERAL LAW requires that credit repair services give you an explanation of your legal rights, a detailed written contract, and three days to cancel. This applies to for-profit and non-profit organizations, banks, credit unions, or the creditor. For some great information about credit repair and counseling services, call 800-989-2227, or visit the NFCC website. View information about credit repair scams:
- No one can remove negative information from your credit history if the information is accurate.
- Negative credit information will remain in your credit history for seven years from the date it is reported.
- Bankruptcy will appear in your credit history for ten years.
- Fraudulent companies will offer different tax IDs or social security numbers in order to create a new file. This Is Illegal.
- Many unsolicited emails or mailings from credit services should be viewed with skepticism.
- Credit services cannot collect a fee upfront until they have kept their promises.
- You can do everything that any service can, and you can do it for free. Call our office for assistance.
If you believe that you are the victim of identity theft:
- Contact all creditors, by phone and in writing, to inform them of the problem.
- Call your local police and give them a report.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission to report the problem:
- 877-438-4338 (1-800-IDTHEFT)
- Call each of the three credit bureaus' fraud units to report identity theft:
- Equifax Credit Bureau, Fraud - 800-525-6285
- Experian Information Solutions (formerly TRW) - 888-397-3742
- TransUnion Credit Bureau, Fraud - 800-680-7289
- Ask to have a "Fraud Alert/Victim Impact" statement placed in your credit file asking that creditors call you before opening any new accounts.
- Alert your banks to flag your accounts and contact you to confirm any unusual activity. Request a change of PIN and a new password.
- Keep a log of all your contacts and make copies of all documents. You may also wish to contact a privacy or consumer advocacy group regarding illegal activity.
- Contact the Social Security Administration's Fraud Hotline:
- Contact the state office of the Department of Motor Vehicles to see if another license was issued in your name. If so, request a new license number and fill out the DMV's complaint form to begin the fraud investigation process:
- In Pennsylvania: 800-932-4600