Listen up. Keeping tabs on your credit report is important for a lot of reasons. Mistakes on the reports can cost you money in higher interest rates. And if someone steals your identity, you might head off problems if you discover it sooner rather than later.
By law, you can get one free credit report per year from each of the three credit reporting agencies — Experian, Transunion and Equifax — online through http://www.annualcreditreport.com">http://www.annualcreditreport.com. You can get those all at once or space them out over the year.
If you are overseas, you may not be able to request the reports online for security reasons. Foreign Internet provider addresses are not allowed access to http://www.annualcreditreport.com">http://www.annualcreditreport.com unless they specifically receive a green light from the credit reporting agencies. The agencies made the decision to generally block foreign IP addresses from the site because people in other parts of the world are using the Internet for fraud, identity theft and other crimes.
Confidential information on credit reports is not something the reporting agencies can take chances with.
"Every day, there's a foreign [Internet protocol] address exploring the Web site trying to find a way in," said Stuart Pratt, president and chief executive officer of the Consumer Data Industry Association, a trade group representing credit reporting agencies and related companies.
The credit reporting agencies are willing to allow the military services to provide a list of foreign IP addresses under their control, so credit reports could be obtained through these addresses, Pratt said.
They've approached the services twice, and each time, various commands and other entities within the services have agreed to provide IP addresses. "They make their own decisions about security," he said.
He said CDIA and the credit reporting agencies will approach the services again about providing IP addresses so the system will let them in. As such, he urges those in the military community overseas to try the Web site because some will be able to use it.
If you cannot request the credit report online, you have other options. You can download the request form from the Federal Trade Commission Web site, http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/freereports.shtm">http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/freereports.shtm. Go to the section "How do I order my free report?" and click on "annual credit report request form."
Or you can write to the annual credit report service — including your name, complete address with ZIP code, Social Security number and date of birth — at Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. If you have access from your overseas location to toll-free numbers in the U.S., call (877) 322-8228.
Remember, the only authorized online source for these reports is http://www.annualcreditreport .com or the toll-free number. You don't have to make a purchase or enroll in any sort of program to get the free reports.
The scoop on soup bones
What's the deal with soup bones in commissaries?
One shopper and his wife were unable to get a soup bone at the store at Camp Pendleton, Calif. The butcher said they were "too dangerous," the shopper wrote.
Commissaries do carry soup bones, but prepackaged, not fresh cut. Butchers no longer cut soup bones on site for two reasons, Defense Commissary Agency spokesman Kevin Robinson said.
First, it's a safety precaution to reduce operator injury when processing bones on the power band saw. That historically has been the "focal point of power-saw injuries," Robinson said.
Second, he said, commissary officials need to get prepackaged bones to meet patron demands, which are greater than "the limited number of available bones extracted from our line of core processed products."
Holiday gift catalog
Holiday shopping options abound in the new exchange holiday gift catalog, brimming with more than 900 items. And you don't have to break the bank with your holiday shopping — many items cost less than $20.
The catalog will give you ideas for gifts and collectibles from Disney, Waterford, Hummel, Bose, Apple and Sharp, to name a few companies.
It's available online at http://www.aafes.com">http://www.aafes.com, http://www.usmc-mccs.org">http://www.usmc-mccs.org, http://www.navy-nex.com">http://www.navy-nex.com or http://www.cg-exchange.com">http://www.cg-exchange.com. You can also check with your local main exchange to see if it has any catalogs left.
Prices are good through Jan. 1. If you use your Military Star Card to make a purchase from the catalog, you have the option of delaying payments and interest for three months.
Got that? You're good to go.