Just as a yearly check-up with your doctor is good for your physical health, taking an annual look at your credit report is good for your financial well-being.
With one year coming to an end and another one about to begin, it’s a good time to consider checking your credit report.
Consumers are entitled to receive one free copy of their credit report every 12 months from each of the three main consumer reporting agencies – – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
You can request your reports in one of three ways:
- Visiting AnnualCreditReport.com
- Calling 877-322-8228
- Completing the form on the website listed above, printing it out and mailing it to:
Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
You will be asked to provide two forms of identification, such as a current driver’s license, paystub or utility bill, to get your reports.
You can ask for each of the three reports at once or request them one at a time. By doing it separately – getting, say, one report every four months – you can keep tabs on your credit throughout the year.
Why do I need to check my credit report?
When you apply for credit for things such as a car loan or a new credit card, your lender will use your report to gauge your creditworthiness.
Lenders submit account updates to Transunion, Experian and Equifax each month. But not all information is updated to all three bureaus each month, and many lenders report updates at different times each month. This means your information may vary from report to report.
Nevertheless, it’s important to stay on top of your credit report. Negative information – such as late payments, judgments, etc. — can harm your chances of getting a loan approved.
Negative information can stay on your credit report for up to 7 ½ years, which is why a regular review of your credit report is so crucial.
Remember, before applying for new credit, check all three credit reports for accuracy. If there is an error, get it corrected immediately. Don’t let inaccurate information keep you from getting the loan you want, and at the most favorable credit terms.
What errors should I look for on my credit report?
Once you get a copy of your report, the first thing to do is to make sure you recognize all the accounts listed there. If you see information you don’t recognize – or someone else’s information – get in touch with the creditor immediately to determine whether you may be a victim of identity theft.
Some errors to keep an eye out for include:
- Multiple entries on the same account
- Closed accounts shown as open
- Inaccurate information that’s been re-inserted
- Re-aged debt, or accounts that should have been removed from your report after the 7 ½ year mark
- Mis-merged files which show someone else’s information on your report. For example, a father and son that share the same first and last name, the son’s information could end up on the father’s report, or vice versa.
What if I find inaccurate information on my credit report?
If you find errors on your reports, you must send written disputes to the bureaus. Your letter should clearly identify the inaccurate listing, state why is should be updated or removed, and include documents that support your claim. The bureaus have 30 days to respond to your dispute.
What if the credit bureau will not correct my report?
If you have disputed errors with the credit bureaus and they continue to list the inaccurate information, you may have a legal claim under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This federal statute offers protections to consumers for information that is maintained by Transunion, Experian and Equifax, as well as agencies that maintain medical, employment and rental history records. Under the law, your records are to be kept private and accurate.
Do I need legal help to get my credit report corrected?
Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm and has represented consumers throughout PA, NJ and NY in matters where the credit bureaus and the furnishers of credit information, have violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Contact us today to learn more about how we can pursue a lawsuit against the credit bureaus and get errors removed from your reports.