If you have spent any time at all looking at the issue of identity theft, you’ve surely come across references to credit reporting agencies. Although most of us are familiar with them, there may be a few who are not, so I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss them a little.
Before getting into the agencies, it’s probably best to discuss credit. From a financial standpoint, credit is basically an up-front loan to someone based on a good-faith belief that they will pay the money back. To the extent that a person honors that obligation to repay, they develop “good credit.” If they fail to repay the loan as agreed, they develop “bad credit” and their history of non-payment will make it difficult to get credit in the future.
Credit reporting agencies are in the business of tracking individual credit histories. They keep tabs on the amount of money an individual owes to his creditors, whether he pays on time, whether he makes his payments in full, etc. There are three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Their contact information is as follows:
Equifax Consumer Fraud Division
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
Experian Credit Fraud Center
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of these three organizations once per year. If you spread them out, you can get a free copy of your credit report every four months (one from a different reporting agency each time), which would allow you to regularly monitor your credit accounts.
That, in a nutshell, is a basic overview of the credit reporting agencies and how you might use them in your identity thft defense efforts.