Protect your identity through your credit, medical, and motor vehicle record reports
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader
According to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACT Act), every consumer in the United States - since September 1, 2005 - has had access to their free credit reports from www.annualcreditreport.com.
Annualcreditreport.com was created and is sponsored by the three major consumer credit reporting agencies including Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. In accordance with the FACT Act, consumers have the right to request and obtain a free credit report once every 12 months from these agencies.
I always encourage my business clients, family and friends to order each of their credit reports once every four months (e.g. January, May and September) so that they are able to benchmark any changes to their credit file. While the primary option for consumers in obtaining a credit report is to go on-line to view and print their credit report through a secure internet connection - consumers can also request their free credit report via an automated phone (877-322-8228) call.
What you may not know is, under the Fair Credit Reporting ACT (FCRA), consumers have the right to obtain information from the MIB Group, Inc. -- formerly known as the Medical Information Bureau - and today known as MIB.
MIB is a membership corporation owned by almost 500 insurance companies located in the United States and Canada. According to MIB, their mission is to detect and deter fraud that "may occur in the course of obtaining life, health, disability income, critical illness, and long term care insurance."
The MIB file contains coded information that identifies medical conditions and/or medical tests that are reported by MIB members to MIB under broad categories. There are also a few codes that are non-medical. These codes report potentially hazardous jobs or hobbies - or of a motor vehicle report showing a negative driving history. MIB has no actual reports or medical records on file, just the coded information by the member.
Consumers in the United States can receive a copy of their MIB consumer file once a year at no cost by calling MIB's toll-free number at 866-692-6901. It's important to note that MIB can provide a medical consumer file only if a consumer has applied for individually underwritten life, health or disability income during the last seven years.
Finally, consumers have access to their driving license status by contacting their individual Motor Vehicle Division (MVD). Whether you are applying for a job as a commercial driver or considering a new auto insurance company, it is a good idea to check out your Motor Vehicle Record (MVR). Your MVR will include traffic convictions, points, suspensions, etc., which will help you understand your eligibility for employment and/or better insurance rates.
Unlike the credit report and medical report - there is a cost to a MVR report that can vary from state and/or third party. For example, in Arizona you can go on-line to view and print a copy of my 39 month driver license record at a cost of $3.00.
Take advantage of your consumer right to access your credit bureau report, medical information bureau report, and your motor vehicle record report - to check for accuracy and completeness - as well as to make sure that no one else is using your name and personal information.
To learn more about these threats and how to protect yourself and your family from Identity Theft, you can read my past newsletters at the Merchants Identity Theft Educational Website at www.idtheftedu.com.
BBB Warns About Ebola Scams and Schemes
Fundraisers for Victims May Not Be Authorized
Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers about a variety of Ebola-related scams and problematic fundraisers that have emerged. BBB Wise Giving Alliance is working with BBB Serving Dallas and Northeast Texas (where the first victim died and two nurses became infected), BBB Serving Greater Cleveland (where one of the nurses traveled before getting sick), and several other local BBBs to investigate some of the Ebola-related efforts.
A fundraising page on GoFundMe was created on Wednesday to raise donations for Amber Joy Vinson, the nurse who traveled from Dallas to Cleveland and is being treated for Ebola in Atlanta. The site may have been the work of a well-intentioned individual, but members of Vinson's family tell BBB they did not authorize the effort. Although the page shut down, there are more than 100 GoFundMe pages raising money for various Ebola campaigns.
Several BBBs have also reported phone solicitations from an organization supposedly raising money to help with Ebola. When pressed, the caller says he is from a famous charity's chapter in Bronx, New York. BBB Metro New York confirmed that no such branch exists and that the solicitation is likely a scam.
BBB warns donors to research any charitable effort - especially those that surface following an event that gains media attention.
- Check out charities at give.org, the charity-reporting arm of BBB.
- Confirm it is a charity. Charitable organizations that have received tax-exempt status are easier to verify.
- Give to whom you know. It is safest to give to those individuals you personally know who are contacting you to support their project.
- Look for updates and transparency. Updates from project organizers help ensure they are being honest about the use of the money raised.
- Ask if your donation or gift is tax deductible. If you are funding a project run by an individual instead of a charity, the funding you provide may not be deductible as a charitable gift for federal income tax purposes.
- Be especially careful after a disaster or tragedy. Con artists will strike while the "emotional iron" is hot.
- Read the fine print. There could be credit card fees and/or administrative costs associated with donating.
- Know how crowdfunding sites work. A site that allows any type of crowdfunding may result in more challenging oversight hurdles.
For additional assistance on charitable giving, visit the BBB Wise Giving Alliance website at give.org.
For More Information
To find out more about scams or report one, check out BBB Scam Stopper.
Courtesy of the Better Business Bureau - for more information visit http://www.bbb.org/phoenix/news-events/
If you believe your identity has been stolen, call 866.SMART68 today.