It's Time for a Credit Report Checkup
What is a credit report and a credit score?
A credit report is a reflection of your financial activities, while a credit score is an analysis of your creditworthiness based on your credit history and current credit and loan accounts. Fair, Isaac & Company (FICO) is the standard measure of credit scores and helps a lender gauge the likelihood of a loan being repaid.
Why do I need to review my credit report regularly?
Getting in the habit of requesting a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, is a great idea because it gives you a chance to find errors like inaccurate information. You may also find suspicious inquiries about your credit history or fraudulent credit card or loan accounts. Lenders use credit reports to determine the interest rates on loans; the more creditworthy you appear on paper, the lower the rate you pay. Any errors or inaccuracies on your report may cause you to pay more.
How do I request a free credit report?
To request your report online, visit www.annualcreditreport.com and fill in your name, address, Social Security number, birthday and your previous home address if you've been at your current residence less than two years. Then, select which credit bureau's report you'd like to receive, and you'll be linked to the credit bureau's Web site to complete your request. When you get your report online, you can print a copy or save it to your computer. Each credit bureau will give you access to your report online for up to 90 days.
You can obtain one report from all three credit bureaus at the same time, but it's best to stagger your requests by getting one every few months. This keeps you current on all of your credit history, and allows you to compare the reports.
You can also request your credit report by phone or mail. When you choose either method, your report will be mailed to you within 15 days. To request your credit report by phone, call 1-877-322-8228. For mail requests, visit www.annualcreditreport.com and fill out the mail request form.
Your FICO score is not included in the free online credit reports but is available for a small fee.
What if I find an error in my credit report?
Almost 79 percent of all credit reports contain some type of error. Some errors commonly found in credit reports include: misspelled names, wrong Social Security numbers or “closed” accounts listed as being “open.”
If you find errors in your report, write a letter to the credit bureau with details on what information you think is inaccurate, and include all copies of documents that support your position. You should receive a response from the credit bureau within 30 days.
What types of suspicious information should I look for?
When you receive your credit report, look for signs of identity theft or fraud. Check your credit report for suspicious activities such as higher than expected balances on your credit cards, accounts listed that don’t belong to you or a change in your home address. Identity thieves often change a home address so you won’t know if your bank sent a letter alerting you to a problem.
Lenders will review your credit report when you apply for credit or open new accounts. Check to see if you received a large number of inquiries or inquiries from lenders or persons who are unfamiliar to you.
If you think that you may be a victim of identity theft, notify the credit bureaus immediately. Call Experian 888-397-3742, Equifax 800-685-1111 or TransUnion 800-888-4213. You will only have to contact one of the three credit bureaus. It will contact the others for you.
Send written requests to:
Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, Georgia 30348
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834