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Your Credit Report – How You Can Make a Difference

It is important to check your credit report regularly — even if you have a high credit score and don’t have plans to apply for a loan. Errors can happen while creditors report your information to the three different credit-reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

If negative information is on your credit report, it could affect your credit score and your bottom line. Your credit score is used in decisions regarding your eligibility for loans, the cost of your insurance premiums, and can even be a factor in approving employment and rental applications. Monitoring your credit report is also a vital way to find out if your identity has been compromised.

Get a Free Report

To have a free copy of your credit report mailed to you, go to www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877.322.8228. Each of the three credit reporting bureaus will provide you, upon your request, a free report once every 12 months, but only through annualcreditreport.com. Do not contact the three consumer reporting agencies directly for your free report as you may be charged.

You will be asked to provide your name, address, social security number and date of birth. You may also be asked for additional information to verify your identity, such as information that appears on your credit report that you would know.

If you have not reviewed your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus in the last few years, it is important to request all three and review each one. Then the next year, request a credit report every four months, alternating between the three credit bureaus. (For example, you could request Experian in January, Equifax in May, then TransUnion in September.)

This frequent monitoring is a healthy financial habit to create and obtaining your credit report in this manner will not affect your credit score. Creditors do not have to report to all three credit bureaus. They may only report to one or two, which is why it is important to look at each of the three annually.

About Online Offers

Keep in mind that while your credit report is free, you will need to pay a fee to see your score. While online, you may see ads offering your credit score or FICO number. When looking at these programs, be mindful of what you are agreeing to. Many ads are for a service to monitor your credit or regularly see your score. These programs appear to be free but actually charge a monthly fee. Think carefully about signing up for these programs, as it may have a more positive effect on your credit score to use that money to pay down your debt. As an alternative, you can purchase your credit score for a onetime fee.

Be aware of credit doctors who market that they will “fix” your credit for a fee. Some of these companies will, on your behalf, dispute all negative information on your credit report. This may be deemed as fraud by you.

Tips for Reading Your Credit Report

When reading your credit report, check for errors, starting with your personal information. Check your name, including your middle initial. Update your current address and phone numbers (you do not want creditors contacting someone else in error about your accounts). Corrections are made by disputing the information listed, then providing the correct information either in writing or by entering the information online.

Carefully look at each of the credit accounts listed. If you see any information on an account that you are unsure about, follow up immediately with the credit bureau and describe the perceived inaccuracies. Be prepared to include copies of documents that support your dispute. Only include the facts when describing the situation to the credit bureau. Be sure to explain why you want the information removed or corrected. Make sure to keep copies of all correspondence for your personal records. The credit bureau has 30 days to respond regarding their investigation. You should also follow-up with the same information to the creditor that reported the information. Only dispute inaccurate information; legitimate information cannot be erased.

Credit reports can be hard to decipher since each is listed in a different format. Your credit report is a record of your overall financial wellness regarding your use of credit. Don’t let errors hold your score down. To obtain free, expert help in reading your credit report, call LSS Financial Counseling at 1-800-528-2926 or visit online at https://www.lssmn.org/financialcounseling/. Start today!

This content was provided by Lutheran Social Service.

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