Beware of official-looking websites that offer free annual credit reports. They are scams. If you request your report online and the website asks you to mail your application with copies of your drivers license, social security card, a recent utility bill or other personal information to the credit reporting agencies, it’s not a legitimate site. That was the case when we tried to order a free annual credit card report on a fake Federal Trade Commission website after reports of security breaches at Target, Neiman Marcus and other retailers.
Victims of credit card fraud and identity theft say the best way to order a free annual credit reports is by phone. “Land line phones are the best and safest way,” said a Pasco County victim. Free annual credit reports from Transunion, Equifax and Experian can be ordered one at a time at different times of the year.
Other victims say they put alerts on their credit cards, change credit card account numbers frequently, change passwords and monitor their credit card and bank accounts daily for illegal activity. They also notice credit card fraud happens just before or during big events and holidays, when people are more likely to spend money. Pay cash for purchases whenever possible. Bank of America advises putting alerts on your accounts, credit and debit cards.
Some banks charge annual fees to receive annual credit reports. However, if you don’t want to pay another bank fee, you also can order free annual credit reports yourself. A legitimate source is calling 1-877-322-8228 by land line. Requests are processed 15 days and mailed.
If you are a victim of credit card fraud, report your case to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and local authorities, whether the fraudulent amount is $1,700 or $5.00. Call 813-247-8000 to set up an appointment to report your case to HCSO’s Credit Card Fraud Investigations Department at Waters Avenue and Hanley Road in Tampa.