Day 17 – Get Your Free Annual Credit Report

31-days-to-your-financial-future_3

Yesterday, I told you to attack your debt, and cautioned that missing payments could hurt your credit score, but that’s only one of several things that might be impacting your credit worthiness.

Your credit report includes details about your entire credit history — name, date of birth, address, employer, open accounts (including debts, utility bills, bank cards, etc.), a list of inquiries made on your credit over the last two years, and details about any overdue debts, collection proceedings, or public record information including foreclosures, liens, judgments, and more.

You need to know what information is on your credit report. You need to verify that information is correct. And you need to take steps to remove any negative items that are damaging your credit worthiness. A bad credit report might keep creditors from giving you a loan (or increase your interest rate or payments when they do give you a loan), and it might even cause your existing creditors to increase your rates.

Today’s task: get your credit report and look it over for anything fishy.

How To Get Your Credit Report

As part of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you’re entitled to one free credit report every year from each of the three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

The easiest way to get this credit report is online at:


HTTPS://WWW.ANNUALCREDITREPORT.COM

Be very careful and make sure you’re at the correct site. Plenty of scammers have set up duplicate sites with similar URLS. There are also a number of other legitimate sites, like Credit Karma, and Credit Sesame, that provide a partial credit report for free.

While these legitimate sites may have their uses, www.annualcreditreport.com is the ONLY site officially authorized by the Federal Trade Commission.

If for some reason you can’t get your credit report online, you can also get it through these other methods:

  • By phone: call 1-877-322-8228
  • By mail:

Should You Get Your Credit Reports All At Once, Or Spread Them Out?

Honestly, you can do whichever you like. Some people prefer to get all of their credit reports at the same time. Others prefer to spread them out throughout the year.

If you’re planning on making a large purchase that requires financing, like a mortgage or big auto loan, it might be a good idea to get all of your credit reports at the same time, so you can make sure everything looks good before you fill out the loan applications.

On the other hand, getting one credit report every four months or so allows you to monitor your credit throughout the year. If you got your Experian credit report in March and everything looked good, but your TransUnion report in August shows a problem, that lets you track the issue down and fix it quickly.

Personally, I prefer the staggered approach, because I like to keep an eye on my credit throughout the year.

Since getting your credit report is a fairly infrequent event, it can help to set a reminder for yourself. You could mark it on a paper calender or set up a reminder on your phone or in Google Calendar. I use IFTTT to send me a notification whenever it’s time to get my next report.

get-your-free-annual-credit-report

Make Sure Information About You Is Accurate

Check your credit report carefully. Make sure all identifying information is correct. Verify the account history of all of your open accounts, and make sure any accounts that you owe a balance on are marked as open.

If you have any delinquencies, make sure they’re within the credit reporting time limit. Most delinquencies stay on your credit report for seven years; bankruptcy stays on your credit report for ten. If they’re still on your credit report past those limits, you can take steps to have them removed.

Inquiries should only stay on your credit report for two years; if you see inquiries older than that, you can take steps to remove them.

Make Sure All Information Is ABOUT YOU

One of the worst feelings is finding out that someone else’s actions have damaged your credit. There’s a number of ways this could happen — someone could have stolen your identity and opened accounts in your name. Someone you co-signed a loan for could have failed to make their payments and allowed the loan to lapse. It could even be a clerical error, especially if you have a particular common name.

Check the inquiries section, too, and make sure that inquiries are only being made by companies you’ve sought credit with. If there are inquiries from companies you’ve never done business with, that might be an indicator that someone is trying to open accounts in your name.

Check For Other Suspicious Entries

These are only a few of the things that might show up on your credit report. For a more complete list, check out NOLO.com’s credit report checklist.

How To Dispute Something On Your Credit Report

If you find any incorrect information or information that shouldn’t be there at all, you can dispute your credit report. To dispute your credit report, you’ll need to identify yourself, explain what you’re disputing, and provide any facts or documentation you can that supports your position. Make sure you only send copies, not original documents. You can dispute your credit online or by phone, but doing it by mail has the advantage of leaving a paper trail, especially if you send you dispute by certified mail with a return receipt.

Here’s dispute contact information for each of the three national credit reporting bureaus:

Equifax

Experian

  • Online: www.experian.com/disputes/main.html
  • By mail:
    • Mail your letter to:
      Experian
      P.O. Box 4000
      Allen, TX 75013
  • By phone: Call the phone number on your credit report or call (888) 397-3742

TransUnion

  • Online: www.transunion.com/personal-credit/credit-disputes-alerts-freezes.page
  • By mail:
    • Download this dispute form.
    • Mail the dispute form with your letter to:
      TransUnion Consumer Solutions
      P.O. Box 2000,
      Chester, PA 19022-2000
  • By phone: Call (800) 916-8800

It’s also a good idea to submit a letter to the company responsible for the erroneous information and ask them to amend your credit report.

Credit Report Webinar On March 20th

d5c9666fbbcf3b4b6da61df5c9b874dd20

In a few days, the Center for Financial Social Work will be working with Experian to offer a free credit report webinar. They’ll be giving some in-depth information about the credit scoring system, dispelling some myths, and more. By attending, you could even win a session with an Experian Credit Educator!

The webinar will be held March 20th at 2:00 P.M. EST.

Click here to register for the webinar!

Tomorrow: Invest In Your Relationships

We touched on the topic of professional relationships earlier in the month, but tomorrow, I want to talk about your other relationships and how they shape your financial decisions. I’m talking about relationships with family, especially your spouse or partner. Tomorrow, we’re going to work on those.

Have you checked your credit report recently?

Have you ever had to dispute something on your credit report? How did it go? Do you use any tricks to remind yourself to check your credit report every year? Tell us in the comments!

Photo by Simon Cunningham.

Click here to read Day 18!
Posted in 31 Days To Your Financial Future

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Enter your email address and we'll email you anytime we publish a new article!