Have you checked your credit report lately? Did you know that you can request free copies of credit reports from each of the three credit reporting bureaus annually? It's important to review your credit reports, not only for fraudulent activity, but also for common, honest errors that can occur.
There are loads of companies offering these reports free, but there is only ONE official site. The others generally try to bait you into purchasing more expensive, add-on services. To get your free reports, visit the official site AnnualCreditReport.com. You should select all three reporting agencies because the information on each may be different, and all three are free (once per year). You may be offered the chance to purchase your credit score. If you haven't received your score recently, it may be worth purchasing, especially if you are considering a major purchase in the near future. You can choose whether you want just one report from one reporting agency, or all three. It's recommended to get all three if you are making a major purchase, otherwise spacing out your requests over the year is a good idea.
So, what should you do with the credit reports once you have them? Remember that each of the three reporting agencies report the information differently, so take a look at the format so you understand exactly what you are looking at. Then, look at the high-level info, starting with your personal info. Make sure that your name and personal info is accurate (if you’ve recently changed your last name, this is especially important).
Also review any information that’s considered “negative” (some of the reports break this out). You’ll want to look for inaccuracies, as well as any potential fraud.
Then, take a look at each account. Is the credit limit right? Is the account yours? Identity theft is very common. Is the payment information accurate? Go through each one carefully, on each report. If you have open accounts that you forgot about (common for store accounts where you may have signed up just for a special promo), make a list so you can contact these companies later to close the accounts.
What do you do if anything is wrong? Well, you can contact the reporting agency, but you may also need to contact the individual creditor. Remember that the creditors and agencies have an obligation to remove inaccuracies – not negative information but WRONG information.
In general, you should expect to spend at least an hour reviewing the accounts about once a year.