The past three years, I’ve been very diligent in making sure that I access my credit report. I have to say, I’ve been pretty lucky in the accuracy of my reports. Having my wallet stolen many years back, I was always afraid sometime down the road I would start to see some questionable activity. Not yet and hopefully not ever!
Why is it so important to monitor your credit? According to a report by the U.S. Public Research Interest Groups in 2004, one in four Americans had serious enough errors that would have resulted in a denial of credit. Even worse, 79% of those surveyed had at least some form of error.
In late 2003, congress passed FAST Act which allowed Americans free access to their credit report by the three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Consumers are allowed one free credit report from each bureau every 12 months. I access my a credit report every 4 months (TransUnion in January, Equifax in May and Experian in September) so that I can maintain a good record throughout the year. I strongly recommend a similar schedule.
To access your free reports, go to AnnualCreditReport.com. This is the official site managed by the three credit bureaus, don’t be fooled by others (like FreeCreditReport.com)! Remember, only the credit report itself is free. If you would like your FICO credit score it is an additional charge (you will be given plenty of options, but usually it costs around $7.95). There are also other options to receive credit alerts, but again, for a fee. At this point I’ll take the FREE credit report thank you very much!
What if you find an issue on your report? Make sure you report it to the credit bureau immediately! Be prepared to offer several documents to prove the error is indeed inaccurate. For a good rundown on what to to do, please visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website.
If you are looking to apply for a car or home loan (or anything else that requires excellent credit), do some due diligence and access your report to verify all is well first. It will definitely prevent future headaches.