They run catchy jingles on TV commercials, and the Web is inundated with credit report pop-up advertisements. Some even promise you access to “free” credit reports, even though the fine print will tell you otherwise.
It’s important to monitor your credit. But how do you know which companies to trust and which ones to avoid?
Jill Rothenberger, the credit coach for Dupaco’s Great Credit Race, recommends using AnnualCreditReport.com, a government-backed site that gives you access to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit bureau.
Before using other sites, Dupaco’s IT experts Steve Ervolino and Kevin Cray recommend asking yourself a few simple questions:
- How did I arrive at this website? Be suspicious if you were led to the site by a random e-mail you were not expecting. If you found the site through a search engine advertisement, it’s also possible that it might not be legitimate.
- Is the company well-known? Before giving personal information to an unknown company, do some research on sites like the Better Business Bureau, Yelp and Yellow Pages. A search through Google or Yahoo can be helpful to turn up previous complaints of fraud.
- Does the request make sense? If you are applying for a loan on a credit union’s site, it makes sense that they would ask many private questions, including your Social Security number. But if you are purchasing a new pair of shoes, it should be a red flag if they ask for more than your address and payment information.
- Should the company already have the information? If you are logging into your credit union’s website, the only reason they would ask you to confirm personal information is if you are registering for the first time, or perhaps resetting your password. Otherwise, they already have this information. Seeing a screen that randomly asks you to confirm your Social Security number or credit card is a red flag that your computer might be infected with malware.
- Does the web address contain “https” (not “http”)? Make sure the website is secure prior to entering any sensitive data like a Social Security number or credit card number. Legitimate businesses will put forth the effort to show their customers that they are a credible business by using what is called the SSL protocol on their website (“https” in the web address identifies this).
By Emily Kittle