Friday, May 08, 2015

Annual credit report, data-mining sites, local government records all should be monitored for bogus court judgments as well as ordinary id theft


One problem with robo-calls (which in my case come in on a little used landline) is that, if you don’t answer any numbers you don’t recognize, you could get a collection call and not know about it..
Typically, a debt collector will leave a first name and a number and not state the reason. It’s illegal under the FDCPA to leave information in a phone message about a debt, because a third party could pick it up.
  
When you all the number back, you learn it is a collection agency.
  
All of this means it is important to know what it is your credit reports.  If your reports have no negative information, then you know the debt is (probably) not legitimate and you have the right to dispute it. A call like this means you could have been targeted by identity theft and have fraudulent accounts in your name.
  
There is another sinister possibility, though unlikely, if your life is at all “interesting.”  You might have a court judgment against you (especially out of state).  If you had not been properly served, then the judgment is not enforceable.  Service by mail is possible in most states, but the plaintiff runs the risk of the defendant’s successfully claiming he or she was not served because the item was misdelivered. Certified or registered mail is possible.  I believe that mailbox stores (like UPS) normally accept service of process, and indicate with a card in your box that you have such an item to pick up.  Many apartment complexes do accept service, during normal business hours.
  
Today, I did pull my “annual credit report”.  Yes, the site uses encryption (https).  Equifax and Experian (formerly TRW and Chilton) separate out negative items and public records (which would include judgments); Trans Union does not.  But Equifax and TransUnion offer PDF copies to download.  With Experian, I had a problem with the html file disappearing (it loads only once for free).  The best report, for readability, was, I think, Equifax. 
  
No negative information showed up, this time at least. I did see some inquiries, but normal stuff, no “shotgunning”.
  
Of course, it might be possible to use sites like “Been Verified” to check one’s own public records (Jan. 13).
  
Homeowners (including especially those with homes acquired through estates) should also learn how to use their own local government’s property tax and utilities billing systems, as another precaution against fraud, like the possibility of a fraudulent mortgage or even title transfer. Like it or not, property tax records are public, and, yes, it’s possible to determine if your neighbor is current just as yourself.  


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