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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money

Time to Check Your Credit Report


How long has it been since you saw a copy of your credit history? If it's been more than a year, it's time to check it again. Your credit report changes constantly, with lenders reporting new information each month.

You can get a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three credit major bureaus. (Sorry, but you'll have to pay to get your credit score.) To get your report, you will be asked security questions about personal information that only you will know to verify your identity.

There is a central service to obtain your free annual credit report; do not contact the credit reporting agencies directly. You can do it by phone, online or by mail:

Phone: Call 877-322-8228 (toll-free)

Online: http://www.annualcreditreport.com

Mail: Print out the request form from the website above. Send to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

If you were denied credit or any benefit based on your credit history, that also entitles you to a copy free from the agency who provided it - but only if you request it within 60 days. Victims of identity theft, those on welfare, and the unemployed can also get a free copy.Contact the credit reporting agencies directly for these requests.

Equifax – 800-685-1111 - www.equifax.com

Experian – 888-397-3742 - www.experian.com

TransUnion –800-916-8800 - www.transunion.com

What's in A Credit Report?

There are several kinds of information in your credit report:

  • Personal Information - your name, addresses, social security number, birthdate, employers. This information is used only for identification purposes.
  • Account History – a record of all of your credit accounts. This section shows how long you have had the account, the credit limit or the original amount of the loan, the current balance, the number of times you paid on time, and the number times you were late.
  • Inquiries- the names of creditors who looked at your credit report within the past two years. When you apply for credit, those inquiries are 'hard" inquiries. Too many of these inquiries can hurt your credit score. You may also see "soft" inquiries listing companies from whom you have received offers of credit, such as pre-approved credit card offers. Soft inquiries do not affect your credit score; lenders who check your credit history do not even see them.
  • Consumer Statement - you can provide a 100 word statement explaining information on your account or extenuating circumstances such as job loss.
  • Public Records –legal items such as bankruptcies, foreclosure, and judgments from state and local court records.
  • Alert Messages – fraud alerts or "Active Duty" alerts for the military help prevent you from being a victim of identity theft.

Dispute Incorrect Information

Check your credit report for error. Maybe the report shows an account that isn't yours, or shows a balance on an account that you already paid off. Common mistakes include information about someone with a similar name, information for an ex- spouse's account that your name was never on, or a closed account being shown as open.

If there are errors, file a dispute with the credit bureau that issued the report. Follow the instructions provided on the credit report. If you received your credit report online, you will probably file the dispute online. State the error and ask for an investigation. The credit bureau legally has 30 days to investigate and correct the information. If there is an error, all three credit bureaus will be notified. Your credit report then should be corrected.


If you check your credit report now, it will always be easy to remember that January is the month to get your free report each year.    


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