Big Changes Coming to Millions of Credit Reports in a Few Days

Millions of people could see their credit scores rise July 1.

Up to 7% of people with credit scores could see them rise beginning July 1 when credit reporting agencies will start excluding most civil judgments and about half of all tax lien data from credit reports.

As announced in March, the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, will start holding public data to new standards. After July 1, any public record data must include a consumer’s name and address, as well as their Social Security number or date of birth, to appear on their credit file, according to the Consumer Data Industry Association.

Who Is Affected?

Most people should see little impact on their credit scores, according to an analysis conducted in March by FICO, the most common provider of credit scores. About 7% of people with FICO scores, or about 15 million of the 220 million Americans with scores, will see a judgment or tax lien removed from their credit files, the analysis said.

Public records like bankruptcies, tax liens and civil judgments typically stay on credit reports for seven years, so those who see these items removed get a long-lasting weight removed from their credit scores.

However, most of the people who have items removed will experience score increases of less than 20 points, FICO said. The reason the increase isn’t greater is because 92% of people who will have tax liens or judgments removed have other negative information on their credit files. To see if the change affects you, you can check two of your credit scores free on Credit.com.

In addition to culling the public record data, the agencies also plan to update their public record information at least every 90 days.

While the credit score increase is relatively modest, it may still be enough to allow people to qualify for loans or credit reports that may have been out of reach before. Most of the people impacted had a median credit score of 565 before the change.

Twenty points above that median puts people in range of a Federal Housing Administration loan with only a 3.5% down payment. The minimum FICO score required for such a loan is 580.

The National Consumer Action Plan

Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are making the changes as part of a 2015 settlement with 31 state attorneys general who were investigating the agencies over the accuracy of credit reports. In response, the agencies launched the National Consumer Action Plan, which aims to make credit information more transparent for consumers.

In addition to the public record data, the plan also prohibits the agencies from including medical debts on credit reports until after 180 days to allow insurance payments to go through. The plan also calls for the bureaus to hire specially trained employees to deal with credit disputes and allow consumers to obtain an additional free credit report if they find an error on their free annual credit report.

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5 Fumbles That Can Seriously Mess With Your Credit

When it comes to credit, it pays to sweat the small stuff.

Hate to break it to you, but when it comes to your credit, it pays to sweat the small stuff.

That’s because a first fumble can leave a big old blemish on your credit report. And seemingly small missteps can really swing your scores in the wrong direction. Plus, under federal law, negative information can stay on your credit file for up to seven years — 10 years if we’re talking bankruptcy (you can learn more here on how long stuff stays on your credit reports)— and thanks to the agreements most creditors have with the credit bureaus, it can be hard to get certain line items removed ahead of schedule.

But knowledge is power. So, with that in mind, here are five fumbles you should avoid so you don’t seriously damage your credit score.

1. Taking Your Good Credit for Granted

It’s very easy to turn a blind eye to your credit scores, especially if you were at an 850 last time you checked and aren’t looking for any new loans. But it’s important to check your credit reports regularly since errors can crop up unexpectedly. (Here’s what to do if you find one.) Plus, there could be legitimate line items you weren’t aware of (ahem, medical bill) that’ll need addressing.

You can keep an eye on your credit by viewing your free credit report snapshot, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com. You can also pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com. If you find your credit score needs improving, consider paying down any high credit card balances, addressing any delinquent accounts and limiting new credit applications until those numbers rebound.

2. Missing Just One Loan Payment

We’ve said it before, but given how important payment history is to credit scores, we’re going to say it again: A first missed loan payment can cause a good credit score to fall by up to 110 points and an average score to fall by up to 80 points. That’s why you’ll want to set up alerts or automatic payments for those monthly bills and, if you do accidentally miss a payment, give your lender a call ASAP. They may be willing to forgive the fumble “this one time.” (P.S. See if they’ll let you skip the late fee, too. Most issuers will accommodate previously perfect customers.)

3. Your Recent Shopping Spree

Retail therapy isn’t going to help your credit much if you charge all those purchases to your credit card — particularly if you can’t even come close to paying them off anytime soon. Credit utilization is the second-most-important factor of credit scores, and, if you’re using more than 10% to 30% of your total available credit limit(s), you can expect your credit scores to take a hit. Keep in mind, too, that credit card interest can quickly accumulate, and the higher your balances climb, the bigger that hit will be.

Be sure to keep your credit card charges to a minimum. And, if you do rack up a big bill, be sure to come up with a solid plan to pay it off. Strategies for getting rid of credit card debt include prioritizing payments (usually by smallest balance or highest annual percentage rate), drafting a new budget to find funds you can put toward your debts or looking into a balance-transfer credit card or debt consolidation loan.

4. An Unpaid Medical Bill

We know. Medical bills are the worst. Half the time you don’t know you have one and the rest of the time, the cost can be hard to cover. But leave any medical bill unattended long enough and it could wind up going to collections — which can end up on your credit reports and do big damage to your credit scores. The same goes, incidentally, for unpaid parking tickets, lapsed gym memberships and even outstanding library fines, so be sure to keep a close eye on your mail. And, if you get an unexpected bill, see if you can negotiate with the creditor or collector before they report it late on your credit reports.

5. That Boatload of Credit Card Applications You Just Filled Out

Sure, credit card churning sounds great in theory. Just think of all those points you can readily rack up. But each credit card application likely generates a hard inquiry on your credit report — and while each one should only cost you a few points, a whole bunch of inquiries in a short time span can really add up. Plus, points aside, the mere presence of too many inquiries can lead to a loan denial. Lenders see it as a sign of money troubles to come, meaning you’ll want to apply for credit cards (and those all-too-alluring signup bonuses) carefully.

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6 Ways to Get Paid What You’re Worth

secure-the-best-salary

Although your net worth isn’t a factor in credit scoring, it does influence your ability to purchase necessities, pay bills and keep your accounts current.

For some professionals, the topic of salary can be more uncomfortable than the interview itself. A Salary.com survey revealed that 18% of job candidates don’t negotiate annual compensation at all, sacrificing the potential for greater earnings and career satisfaction. While there are limits to every job offer, there are a few strategies that could help you in the negotiation process.

1. Improve Your Resume

Learning what skills employers in your industry are looking for is one of the first steps toward earning higher pay. Review open positions online and create a list of common requirements. Research desirable credentials and think about highlighting the skills you have that meet these requirements. You might even consider earning a higher degree or certification to solidify your skills.

2. Avoid Specific Salary Requirements

Do your best to resist the urge to list a specific figure requirement on an application unless pressed. If you must, you might want to write “competitive” or “negotiable” to keep the conversation open. Disclosing your salary history can also lead to fewer bargaining options. In fact, earlier this year, Massachusetts passed state legislation prohibiting employers from considering past salaries in their hiring practices. It’s a good idea to discuss your workplace merits and skills before discussing money.

3. Consider Your Local Market Value

Location is a vital component of earning potential. According to Glassdoor.com, the average salary for a senior-level mechanical engineer in Chicago is $85,601, while the same position in Seattle yields $134,127. Consider cost of living and your own market value during the negotiation process. Your research will help you set realistic expectations.

4. Prepare a Counter-Offer

It’s a good idea to assess your worth and have an amount in mind that you can use for a counter-offer if you don’t like the first offer a company gives you. Make sure you consider base salary, benefits, signing bonuses, vacation time and other perks. It’s a good idea to make the counter-offer higher than what you’d settle for to give you negotiation room. Mutual flexibility is key here.

5. Share Your Ideas

An effective way to demonstrate value is to come prepared with ideas to help productivity. Research the company’s work and create a list of tasks you would like to complete if hired for the role. Early initiative shows enthusiasm and creativity, two qualities worth consideration during salary discussions.

6. Avoid Limiting Your Job Search

Salary negotiation is easier with a little competition. Pursue multiple job openings with the hope of securing more than one offer. It may be helpful to use competing salaries as leverage to land the position you prefer.

Preparing in Every Way

Many employers look at a version of your credit reports as part of the application process. It may not have a direct impact on your salary, but it’s still a good idea to know where your credit stands so you go into every interview as prepared as possible (which will likely only boost your value to your potential employer). You can see where your credit currently stands by taking a look at a free snapshot of your credit report, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

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4 Unexpected Items That Can End Up on Your Credit Reports

unexpected-items-on-credit-report

You may already know the common items that appear on your credit reports, like personal identifying details as well as the debts you hold, payments you’ve made and hard inquiries generated whenever you fill out an application for credit with a lender.

But knowing all that, you could still find surprises on your credit report. Even if you are confident you’re building a great credit history, it’s a good idea to check your reports on an annual basis. (You can do this for free once each year by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.) Here are four surprising items that can land on your credit reports and affect your credit scores.

1. Hard Inquiries From Service Providers

Hard inquiries usually occur when you apply for a loan or credit card and the lender performs a check on your credit. These inquiries usually only prompt a minor ding on your credit, but too many at once can damage your credit scores.

Hard inquiries can come from other sources, too. Many car rental companies perform credit checks. Cable providers, landlords, phone and utility providers sometimes perform credit checks that cause hard inquiries on your report as well. When signing up for a service, you may want to check if they will be pulling your credit and avoid putting other hard inquiries to your credit reports in the short term.

2. Accounts You Don’t Own

Accounts you never owned can land on your credit report. These accounts could even be in collections. Sometimes these accounts are errors, such as an account belonging to someone with the same name (that would be considered a mixed file). Other times, they could be an identity thief opening accounts in your name and damaging your credit. This is why you may want to check that the items on your credit report actually belong to you. If you do discover any of these accounts, you can file a dispute. (You can read this guide to learn about how to dispute an error on your credit reports.)

3. Forgotten Debts 

Forgotten debts are unexpected for obvious reasons: they’ve slipped your mind. Sometimes, debts can land on your credit reports after several months have passed. Other times, you may have moved and the company never sent a follow-up to your new address. Even old unpaid parking tickets, utility bills and other very small debts can wind up on your credit reports.

4. Accounts You Already Paid Off

If you’ve paid off an account that was in collections, you may have expected that debt to be removed from your credit report, but this doesn’t always happen. Accounts in collections can stay on your credit report for seven years, and could potentially be damaging your credit even once you’ve settled.

If you discover any of these unexpected items on your report and opt to repair your credit, it’s important to remember you can do this on your own or turn to the help of a professional. You can see how your improvements are affecting you by viewing two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

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Help! A Payday Debt Collector Says I Owe them Money, But It’s Not On My Credit Report

payday-debt-collector

Yes, there’s such a thing as phantom debt collectors. And, yes, you can get contacted about a payday loan debt you simply don’t owe. Just ask intrepid consumer reporter Bob Sullivan, who received his very own debt collection note after simply reaching out to a payday loan company (and alleged phantom debt collector) for a story.

But if you have taken out a payday loan before and you’re genuinely confused about whether you completely addressed that debt, we have a bit of bad news: you can’t simply take the debt’s absence from your credit report as a sign you don’t have to pay.

For starters, payday lenders don’t typically report to major credit bureaus, like Experian, according to the bureau’s Director of Public Education, Rod Griffin.

In other words, there’s a chance the original loan never made it onto the traditional credit reports you can get for free each year via AnnualCreditReport.com. But that doesn’t mean you don’t owe the purported balance.

“Any debt you enter into contractually you are obligated to repay, even if it doesn’t appear in a credit report,” Griffin said, and ignoring a legitimate debt could have serious consequences.

“If you do not fulfill the terms of the contract, the payday lending company could send the unpaid amount to a collection agency, that could then report the debt to a credit reporting company,” he said. “Another possibility is that the payday lender could file a civil lawsuit to recover the debt. A judgment resulting from a civil lawsuit could also appear in a credit report.”

Something else to note: not all debt collectors report to the credit bureaus either. In fact, it’s not unheard of for some agencies to try to collect on the debt before taking that type of adverse action in an effort to get a debtor to pay. So, again, it’s totally possible for a legitimate debt collection account to simply not appear on your credit file as soon as you start getting calls.

So What’s a Confused Consumer to Do?

Whether you’re sure you owe or not, it’s important to ask whoever is contacting you for written verification of the debt they allege you owe. In fact, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) requires that collectors provide this notice listing the amount of money and the name of the original creditor within five days of contact. Tip-offs that you are dealing with a debt collection scammer include their refusal to provide this type or verification, threats of arrest and a request for payment via less traceable methods, like a wire transfer or prepaid card.

If you discover the debt is legitimate, it still pays to know your rights. Yes, collectors can try to get you to pay money you do owe, but there are restrictions on how they can go about this. For instance, they can’t call too early, too late, use abusive language or make dire threats. (You can learn more about your debt collection rights here.) You can always contact a consumer attorney if you think a debt collector may be stepping over the line.

Settling Debts

Remember, if you do, in fact, owe what they say, it may be a good idea to try to work out a payment plan before the collector pursues further action, like a lawsuit. 

Collection accounts that do appear on your credit report will affect your credit — and unpaid collections can do more damage than paid ones. (You can see how collection accounts may be affecting your credit by viewing your free credit scores, updated each month, on Credit.com.) Tips for negotiating with collectors or creditors include explaining clearly what you can afford, taking written notes whenever you talk to a collector and getting written confirmation once you agree to a plan.

If a collection account that you don’t owe makes its way onto your credit report, you can dispute its appearance with the major reporting agencies. (Here’s a guide on how to do so.)

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It’s Divorce Season: Here’s How to Keep Good Credit While Splitting

No one ever said divorce would be easy, especially when it comes to your finances. But if you’re contemplating a break, have hired an attorney or have just been served papers, managing your credit should be of utmost importance to you. Your finances, like your personal situation, are going to change, and you’ll need to protect them to secure your financial future.

New research from two University of Washington sociologists shows that divorce-filing rates peak in August, right after summer vacations. Their research was based on analysis of divorce filings in Washington state between 2001 and 2015. To help you get through this uncertain time, we reached out for some advice to John C. Heath, a credit expert and consumer attorney for Lexington Law, which is affiliated with Credit.com. Here are some of the things he said to keep in mind credit-wise as your case wends its way through divorce court.

1. Pull Your Credit Reports

“You’ll want to pull your credit reports and take a look at what’s on them,” says Heath, because there’s a chance you may have joint credit accounts with your soon-to-be ex-spouse that you aren’t aware of, or worse, you’ve been put on accounts without your spouse telling you. If either of those are the case, you’ll want to make sure to address it, whether that means putting the account on ice until things are settled, deciding on who will take what responsibility or having your ex-spouse or yourself removed from the account.

You’ll also want to check your report for any errors, as these can sometimes lower your score, making it hard to secure new lines of credit. (You can learn more about disputing errors on your credit report here and view a summary of your credit report, updated monthly, for free on Credit.com.)

2. Avoid Taking Out New Lines of Credit

“One other thing you won’t want to do is take out any additional credit,” Heath says, because it may wind up affecting your soon-to-be ex-spouse’s credit file. For instance, if you’ve co-signed on a loan for your spouse and decide to apply for a travel rewards card, you could overextend your finances, making it harder to pay for the loan. If you fall behind on payments, or worse still, default, this could impact your spouse’s credit. Taking on more debt than you can handle could also exacerbate an already tense situation where you’re juggling attorneys’ bills with daily expenses.

3. Draft a Budget

Tough as it is, accepting and adjusting to your new financial reality is a must if you want to move forward, says Heath. “You’re going to be entering a time where, if you had a joint account, that money is no longer available to you,” he says.

Your situation may change in other ways as well. For this reason, it’s important to have your own funds set aside, so you can pay bills on time, and in full, without worrying. With things at home changing, you’ll also want to make sure you’re able to afford what you need to get by, be it a car, a home, student loans or anything else.

With your credit in solid shape, you’ll be able to finance an auto loan, a mortgage or whatever other type of loan is necessary for starting your new life.

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3 Ways Parents May Accidentally Harm Their Child’s Credit

parents-may-harm-their-child's-credit

It’s possible, and sometimes common, for teens and young adults to unknowingly damage their credit, as they aren’t fully aware of how their spending habits are truly affecting them. But sometimes it can go a step beyond youthful mistakes and parents are the ones ultimately prompting the damage to their child’s credit. (You and your child may both want to discover where your credit currently stands. One way to do this is by viewing your two free credit scores, updated monthly, on Credit.com.)

If you’re a parent, you may want to consider these three ways you may be harming your child’s credit without even realizing it.

1. Not Encouraging Them to Work for What They Want

If you give your child everything and they never have to work for anything, they likely won’t know what it takes to earn a dollar. Or how many hours at minimum wage they would have to work to buy that $280 handbag (that you paid for) or that it is equal to someone else’s monthly car payment. Not understanding that you have to work for money may cause your child to not understand how to responsibly use credit cards. Swiping a piece of plastic at the register is easy, but paying the statement that comes at the end of the billing cycle may not be. It’s a good idea to teach them how much things cost and how to save for what they want. It’ll be good for them to learn how to budget for needs versus wants as well.

2. You Helped Them Take Out Too Many Student Loans 

If your child wants to go to a school that is more expensive than what their scholarships, federal student loans and grants will cover, another consideration may be private student loans. While having student loans on their credit profile may add diversity (and that can be a good thing, as types of accounts make up 10% of your credit scores), it can set your child up for dealing with paying back an immense amount of debt. You may want to read up on evaluating college costs and look for the least expensive route to get a college education while avoiding unnecessary student loans.

For example, your child may be able to live at home and attend the local community college for the first two years of school and then transfer the credits to a four-year school they want their degree from to help cut back on potential debt. During this time they can also save up money to help pay for living expenses which average around $10,000, whether you live on campus in the dorms or off-campus in an apartment, according to the College Board’s most recent figures. Out-of-state and private schools are typically most expensive, but may also offer significant grants (free tuition) to attend, based on special talents or high grades and test scores. The trick is to see if it would be cheaper to stay in-state or not, depending on the offers and total cost of admission. No matter what you decide, it’s a good idea to take the time to talk to your teen about ways to save money on college costs.

3. You Share Your Bad Credit

It’s hard to teach good credit behaviors when you don’t know them or practice them yourself. It may seem easier or smarter to add your child to your credit card account as an authorized user, but you need to consider this carefully before doing so. When you put them on one of your accounts as an authorized user, there’s a good chance that account will appear on your child’s credit reports. And, while this move can sometimes help a young adult build credit, if you’re making late payments or are carrying a high balance on the account, it will have the opposite effect. In other words, your child’s credit may suffer so long as they stay on the account. (Note: Since your child is not the primary accountholder, they should be able to call the creditor, get taken off the account and ultimately have the negative information removed from their credit reports.)

Before adding your child to any accounts, you may want to make sure your own credit habits are in line. You can generally build good credit by making all your loan payments on time, keeping debt levels low and keeping credit inquiries to a minimum.

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Help! My Credit Report Dispute Got Denied

credit-dispute-denied

You found an error on your credit report and tried to correct it. You might have even spent hours on the phone to get ahead of it. But then, what seemed like a straightforward appeal to you, was nixed and your dispute got denied. Now what? Does it mean you have to live with a ding in your credit that doesn’t even belong to you? Actually, there are more things you can do.

“When consumers’ disputes are denied and they disagree with these results, they definitely have options,” Eric J. Ellman, senior vice president of public policy and legal affairs at the international trade organization Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA), which represents the three major credit reporting agencies, said.

How It Works

If you’ve filed your dispute correctly, the credit bureau will contact the company that reported the information and notify them of the dispute. The source of the information, usually a lender, then reviews its records and tells the credit bureau to update the information, delete the information or verify that it is accurate as reported.

“If the results state the information was verified, that means that the creditor did not agree that the information was in error,” Sandra Bernardo, manager of consumer education at credit bureau Experian, said.

But this doesn’t mean it’s a final decision.

Under federal law, you have the right to submit a dispute and request an investigation when you discover an error in your credit report. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the credit reporting agency and the creditor, or firm that supplied the information, have responsibilities for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report, according to a fact sheet on the National Consumer Law Center’s website.

When you submit a dispute, the credit reporting agency must investigate the items in question – usually within 30 days. There is no limit to how many times a consumer can dispute an item on their credit report, according to National Consumer Law Center attorney Chi Chi Wu.

“In some cases, it will take several disputes to resolve a mater. However, if the consumer submits the same dispute regarding the same item, it may get rejected as ‘frivolous or irrelevant.’ A good idea is to add additional information or documentation to each subsequent dispute,” Wu said.

Experian concurred: If you keep submitting the same dispute without adding additional evidence, it can be punted back to you and declared “frivolous.” But “if a person has new documentation that verifies their dispute, it would no longer be frivolous and the dispute would be processed. Of course, it would have to be new relevant information,” said Bernardo. Also, if you have an entirely different reason for a dispute for the same account, you can submit the information as many times as you have a different reason.

Handling a Dispute

To stay informed on what dings are sticking, it’s best to get your free credit reports each year from the three major credit reporting agencies, and check what they say about you. (You also can see two of your credit scores, updated for free, each month on Credit.com.) And know that many others have their disputes initially denied. A 2015 Federal Trade Commission study on credit report accuracy found although many people still believe that at least one piece of previously disputed information is inaccurate, about 50% of them don’t contest it.

Here are some tips for handling a dispute.  

  1. Know that paying the bill usually doesn’t simply erase the ding from your credit report. If this happened, many many people would have a perfect credit report and it wouldn’t be a very useful tool to determine past performance. “This just isn’t the case,“ Ellman said. Raising your credit score is a bit more complicated, and, along with other truths about credit repair, legitimate dings can take 7 to 10 years to drop off your report.
  2. Contact the creditor directly. Sometimes the best way to resolve a conflict is to discuss it, head on, and this is one of those cases. “If consumers feel the item(s) are in error, they should contact the creditor(s) directly to find out why they did not agree to remove them from their report,” Bernardo said. This is because the credit bureaus don’t have direct access to all of the account’s data that you and the lender have, according to Ellman
  3. Get supporting documentation. Credit bureaus give people the option to file their disputes online and by mail. And they’ve retooled the technology to ensure that creditors review the paperwork, Ellman said. “This effort has been welcomed by lenders who want to see this additional information in order to resolve their customer’s dispute,” he said. Scan or copy all information supporting your case, and send it to both the lender’s address supplied on the credit report and all three credit bureaus. If you have multiple errors on your credit report, send multiple letters and evidence to the bureau(s) in question.
  4. If you’re a victim of identity theft, get a report. This can be done through the Federal Trade Commission, which has an identity theft website. It allows consumers to set up an online account, and walks them through the steps needed to resolve consequences of the crime. “Our members and their lenders both use identity theft reports to expedite a consumer’s fraud claim and this includes blocking data in her/his credit report or the reporting of this data by the consumer’s lender,” according to Ellman. It’s imperative to continue monitoring your credit, and the free copies of your credit reports provided under FCRA once a year.
  5. Ask for a statement to be placed on the report. “The statement should be specific to the dispute of credit information,” Ellman said. According to the NCLC website, you also can ask the credit reporting agency to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. You might have to pay a fee for this service. Also, if you tell the information provider that you dispute an item, a notice of your dispute must be included any time the creditor reports the item to a credit bureau, according to the NCLC. (It’s important to note, however, that dispute statements can affect your credit scores positively or negatively, depending on how they appear on your credit reports, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your credit after requesting that a statement be added.)

While you’re waiting for your dispute to be settled, you can work on improving your credit in other ways. For instance, you can pay down high credit card balances, limit new credit inquiries and re-establish your payment history by making all loan payments on time.

[Offer: If you need help fixing your credit, Lexington Law may be able to help you meet your goals. Learn more about them here or call them at (800) 594-7441 for a free consultation.]

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The Craigslist Rental Scam You Should Know About

Craigslist-rental-scam

Sometimes searching for a rental home on Craigslist can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. And identity thieves have allegedly found a way to throw a monkey wrench into the process.

According to one Reddit user, fraudsters are using the online classifieds site to pilfer prospective renters’ personal information. The gimmick is simple: When a renter contacts someone about a listing they saw on the site, they receive a message asking for their credit report, along with a link to access it. “We recommend this site because all our tenants used it and haven’t had a problems,” the apartment lister wrote.

Taking it a step further, the messenger says they want to confirm they have an updated credit report before scheduling a tour.

The Reddit commenter explains the rest:

I was surprised by the quality of the writing, but not so surprised to see “CLICKING HERE” pointed to an extremely suspicious URL that ran through several redirects before landing on a “credit check” website that exists purely to steal your information and charge you a monthly fee for future credit reports.

Craigslist did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It does advise users to never give out personal information (including Social Security numbers), to refrain from renting or purchasing sight-unseen and to refuse background or credit checks until you have met an employer or landlord in person on its website in order to avoid scams.

Things to Remember 

While it’s helpful to know where your credit stands, especially as some landlords check this information during the application process, you won’t need to pull your own reports before viewing a listing. This is not required, as the Reddit commenter points out, and anyone who asks for this information ahead of you even stepping into a potential new home may not have your best interests in mind. But if you want to pull your credit reports for your own knowledge, you can do so safely and for free by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also view two of your credit scores, updated monthly, for free on Credit.com.

Credit reports contain sensitive personal information, including your Social Security number and birth date, and sharing them with a stranger can lead to all sorts of headaches. Think: credit accounts being opened in your name, sky-high charges on your credit cards and the embarrassment of having your card declined. And that’s just the beginning of all the damage ID theft can cause, so make sure you’re careful during this rental process.

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