, but not for everyone

In a recent column I discussed a new website, The site is a partnership between Equifax, one of the top three credit reporting bureaus, and Fair Isaacs, Inc., a company that created one of the most popular forms of credit scoring.

For $12.95, it’s now possible to get a copy of your credit report, along with your credit score, and information on how to improve your credit history and raise your score. Once you register and enter your credit card number, it takes about 30 seconds to download your credit history and score.

But some readers have been having problems with the site. Several found that the passwords they were given didn’t work correctly, and another found that the site wouldn’t take any of his credit cards.

“I’m not really sure why people are having trouble entering in the passwords,” said Veronica Jones, director of consumer services for the Atlanta-based Equifax. “But the person who is having trouble entering his credit card information may have a fraud alert on his credit report. And if that’s the case, the site will reject any attempt to gain access to the credit history.”

Any consumer who suspects that his or her identity has been stolen, can call one of the three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Trans-Union, and Experian, and ask that a temporary fraud alert notice be placed at the bottom of the credit history.

“You dial into the automated system, input your identification and that starts the temporary alert. When you do that, you’re automatically sent a form letter that gives you the fraud numbers and addresses for Trans-Union and Experian, and an affidavit that you must fill out listing the inquiries you’re concerned about,” explained Jones. “We’ll investigate and if we find one that’s fraudulent, we’ll put your account on temporary alert, which can stay on your credit history for up to 2 years, to permanent status, which is 7 years.”

The fraud alert is a statement located at the bottom of the credit file.

“It says, ‘I believe I’m the victim of a fraud. Before you establish credit, call me.’ If any lender or creditor pulls up the credit history, they should attempt to dial the numbers given. If the consumer isn’t there, they’re supposed to leave a message. Then the consumer is to call back to confirm or deny that he or she is trying to get credit,” Jones added.

Jones said the fraud alert works. Someone who steals your identity would not be able to open up new credit cards, buy a car or get a mortgage, because the lender would see the fraud alert at the bottom of the credit card.

On the other hand, it wouldn’t stop a thief from using one of your existing credit cards to run up your bill.

And, it doesn’t help when a consumer want to go online and apply for a mortgage or check his or her credit. The fraud alert should stop those processes.

“It’s designed to protect the consumer,” said Jones.

After a little back and forth with the reader, it turns out that he did indeed have a fraud alert posted on his file. He put it there after someone had stolen his credit information.

Jones said that consumers with fraud alerts could still receive their credit history in the mail, however, they would be unable to get their credit score. When asked why, Jones said that the company has been focused on meeting the July 1st deadline in California. A recent law passed requires credit bureaus to give California residents their credit histories and credit scores by mail as of July 1st.

“We’re not offering it to the rest of the country because it’s not mandated by law. Eventually, it will be available all over,” Jones said.

It always costs more than you think

In a recent story, I wrote about how one should think through the purchase of options and upgrades when buying a new construction home. I wrote, “for example you may have always wanted a fireplace in your bedroom. It sounds romantic, but the $700 you may spend on the bedroom fireplace might allow you to put upgraded tile or even marble in your master bath . . “

One reader wrote: “$700 for a fireplace? I’ll take 50 of them.” A contractor in southern California, he included an options and upgrade list from his company. He charges $3,500 for a standard fireplace. If you want a custom height, it’s an extra $500 and that doesn’t include the granite or tile surround. A raised hearth is another $500.