Saturday, July 16, 2005

A Web site created by federal mandate last year to help consumers spot identity theft is opening up new avenues for fraud, according to a privacy watchdog group. The site,, offers consumers free copies of their own credit reports. It was launched in December by Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, the three major credit reporting agencies in the United States, in accordance with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003. The federal law aims to quell growing concerns over privacy and disclosure of sensitive financial data. However, the online service has quickly fallen prey to imposter sites, which are designed to lure traffic from a legitimate Web site by adopting a similar domain name. Imposters targeting the site now number 112, according World Privacy Forum, a nonprofit based in San Diego that's studying the problem. Another 120 registered domains that aren't currently active employ the words annual credit report in some combination or are close misspellings of the official site, the group said. Many of the imposter sites serve as "ad farms," referring visitors to credit bureaus that charge for the reports, World Privacy Forum said. The imposters then collect referral, or "pay per click" advertising, fees from for-pay bureaus

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