Guest Author - Kim Lynch
Credit plays a major role in so many parts of our lives. Employers, landlords, banks and insurance companies are just a few of the groups that request credit information. A report with inaccurate information can cost you in many ways, including higher interest rates, increased auto insurance rates, it can even cost you a job. Checking your credit report regularly can also alert you to fraudulent activity, which may be the first signs of identity theft.
In accordance with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act), every consumer has a right to request and obtain a free copy of their credit report on an annual basis. Checking your credit report regularly is just as vital to your financial health as checking your blood pressure is to your physical health.
While many companies advertise that they offer "free" reports, the only free, no strings attached source for obtaining free credit reports from each of the three national credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) is www.annualcreditreport.com. Be carefully if you type the web address, as there are other, unrelated sites with similar spellings. These copycat sites may try to sell you a report or gather information.
When requesting your reports, you have the option of requesting all three at once or spacing them through out the year. Requesting all the reports at once allows you to compare and check them all for accuracy, but you won't be able to request another free report from any of the companies for 12 months. Spacing your request approximately 4 months a part will allow you to self "monitor" your credit throughout the year.
Your report should include personal information including your name, address, and phone number. Next you should see a detail list of your credit history which should include loans, credit cards and your payment record, as well as any bankruptcies and liens. The report should also include a list of people or companies who have requested copies of your credit report.
Tab browsing is the easiest way to view and open the links in this article. Simply right click on a link and select "open a new tab.". This will open the web page in a separate tab while keeping this page open. It's a great way to view multiple sites at once.
If you find inaccuracies, The Federal Trade Commission offers a tip sheet on How to Dispute Credit Report Errors.
Each company also offers information on how to dispute errors in the report on file with them.
Equifax - Correct Information in Your Credit File
Experian - Dispute Information on Your Credit Report
TransUnion - Credit Disputes