Check your credit report
A credit report is the most important document in your life! Even though they have been free since 2005, only a minority have accessed and reviewed their credit reports. Because it is such an important document you need to review a credit report from each of the credit bureaus once a year. Be careful though. There is only one correct website to use: www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 877-322-8228
There are over 100 rip-off sites that hope you'll use them, instead.
Here's what you need to know!
Get Your Free Credit Reports each year
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. The three consumer reporting companies have set up one central website, toll-free telephone number, and mailing address through which you can order your free annual report.
To order, visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. The form can be printed from the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/credit. You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies at the same time, or you can order from only one or two at a time. It is possible to monitor your credit report every four months by ordering one report at a time and checking one report every four months.
A credit report contains four main pieces of information:
Your name and contact information
Your creditors and your history of paying bills on time (or not).
Legal information like whether you’ve been had judgments against you, filed for bankruptcy or been evicted from rental property.
Who has been looking at your credit report (you may be surprised)
Credit reporting companies sell your information to creditors, insurers, employers and other businesses.
Correct, negative information stays on your credit report for seven years with the exception of bankruptcy. Bankruptcies tend to be reported for ten years.
Some sources estimate as many as half of all credit reports contain errors. Identity thefts are often discovered by reviewing credit reports, as well.
Your credit report is overused
Certainly, it is appropriate for lenders to use your credit report to determine whether to loan you money or not. More and more, though, employers are reviewing credit reports of prospective employees. Insurance companies may review credit reports to determine whether they will issue insurance policies and what premiums to charge.
Prospective employers may check your credit report before deciding whether to hire you. They may even check your credit report to decide if you are a terrorist threat before you board an airplane!
Inaccurate Information on Your Credit Report?
Credit reports contain a great deal of information and some sources estimate that as many of half of all credit reports have substantial inaccurate information.
If you do not recognize information on your credit report or believe information may be inaccurate, you may request that the credit bureaus investigate the accuracy of the information being reported. Only inaccurate information may be removed.
“Dispute” is the word credit bureaus use to describe the process of investigating and correcting errors. Listen for this word when you are attempting to negotiate the telephone trees at each credit bureau. Search for this word at each credit bureau’s website.
Credit reporting agencies suggest that using their website is their preferred way of beginning the process of disputing information.
You will need to be persistent to successfully negotiate the web sites and automated telephone systems.
We have found some of the credit bureaus change their contact information fairly frequently.
How do I get my free FICO score?
The law does not require that FICO scores be provided for free. It is most important to review your credit score carefully. Your FICO score is a quick summary of your credit score. Learn more about FICO scores.