I’ve been writing the last few days about the hackers who got Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) account information.  I’ve underscored the need to take the TSP up on their offer of free credit reporting.

But now I’ve got a “credit report” alert to share with you.  This is an important alert for all of us but especially if you get one of the TSP letters.  I don’t want people who get a TSP letter to think that they’ve already —somehow —already signed up for credit reports.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has reported that consumers need to carefully review their credit and/or debit card statements for a credit report charge.  You don’t remember requesting a report but the charge will look as if it’s from a legitimate credit reporting company —such as Experian, or Consumerinfo.com or Creditreport.com.  So you could think that you’ve forgotten that you’d requested a credit report.

BBB reports that people who called Experian discovered that their card had been used to buy a credit report for someone else; the unauthorized charge, BBB reports, likely resulted from some type of security breach.  The BBB’s article can be found at FraudAvengers.com (“FRAUD ALERT: Watch Out for Unauthorized Charges for Credit Reports.”)

What do you do if you find such an unauthorized charge?  Here’s what BBB recommends:

  1. If the charge is for Experian, Consumerinfo.com or Creditreport.com: call the phone number listed next to the merchant’s name on your statement.  The representative will ask for your name and card number.  If those aren’t the same as on the requested report, you should get a refund within 7 to 14 days.
  2. Immediately call the issuer of the credit or debit card that was used.  Report the misuse and ask for a new card.
  3. Report your incident to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) via their ID Theft Clearinghouse (www. ftc.gov/idtheft).  Doing so will provide the FTC with needed information about this scam.  The FTC will then be able to see if patterns emerge about the unauthorized transactions and then possibly investigate the source of the data breach.

The thieves who stole the credit and debit card information are using an unfortunately very clever scheme.  We want to protect our credit ratings so they’re counting on us not to question a charge for a credit report.  Don’t let them get away with this — if you see an unauthorized charge, follow the BBB’s steps ASAP.