WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - The credit breach at Target and other retailers have Americans watching their credit closely.
You can get your credit report for free, but did you know there are dozens of other free reports you can get? Each one is full of different personal data about you.
There are more than 40 companies that collect information about you, and you have a right to see many of these reports for free.
Tricia Green helps others change their look with a splash of color, and a bold new cut.
A thief didn't have to change his look to assume this hairdressers identity.
"I had my purse stolen out of my car at a local country club and they managed to go spend quite a bit of money using checks and opening accounts," explained Green.
It takes hours to keep the thief's fraudulent purchases off Green's accounts, and she can't ever let down her guard.
"You think it stops and then it creeps back up on you and starts all over again and you're right back to square one," said Green.
Green is only watching her credit closely, even though there are dozens of other reports with her personal information in it.
"Holy mackerel. I had no idea,' said Green looking over a list of reports the Consumer Watchdog showed her.
Specialty consumer reporting agencies collect, share, and sell your data for everything from insurance claims to your prescription medications.
"This is crazy. Insurance information. I mean who knew? I had no idea. Pay rent. I mean this is crazy," said Green looking over the list.
The data is used to make business decisions. A landlord might check a report that tracks your rental history. Before you get a job your employment history is checked. Insurance companies may look at your previous claims to determine your premium price.
Since it's your information, you have a right to see it.
"I'm looking forward to just see what people think they know about me. And I'm looking forward to clearing my name if so be it," said Green as she started the process.
It took some time for Green to request her reports. Some require proof of your identity, so your information doesn't end up in the wrong hands. You may have to send in a bill with your address on it or other personal information. Click here to see the specialty consumer reports and where to go to find out how to see if that agency has a report on you.
Most of the reports are free, but don't be surprised to find mistakes. The Federal Trade Commission found 1 in 4 Americans has an error on their credit report that could impact their score.
"The bureaus work under the basis that they can make these errors and get away with it," said Consumer Protection Attorney Paul Herman.
Herman is a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. He feels there is little incentive to fix the errors.
Mistakes cost the check processing company, TeleCheck, $3.5 million dollars in January.
"You are not going to spend billions to fix something that at worst, on penalties and losses is costing you millions. It's just a business decision," said Herman.
Herman is hopeful those business decisions will change now that the two year old Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or CFPB is watching the industry.
"They're almost like the consumer equivalent to homeland security," said Herman.
CFPB records show more than 17,000 complaints about credit reporting in the last 15 months. The agency is arming consumers with a list of reporting agencies so you can which who is collecting and selling your data for the first time.
"What an incredible experience," said Herman.
You have a right to dispute any wrong information. Your rights are detailed on the back of most of these reports. Herman suggests you don't file a dispute online, especially if it is a major one that could impact your credit or cost you more for a product. Start a paper trail. Send the letter certified mail so you have proof you did your part.