Reviewing your credit report at least once a year is an important part of managing your personal finances. Ensuring the information contained in the report is accurate can help you when making a large purchase, such as buying a new vehicle or applying for a mortgage.
Many employers now check prospective employees’ credit reports as well, so if you’re currently in the market for a new job, you’ll want to thoroughly review your report for any errors and inaccuracies.
Obtaining your Credit Report
You can get a free copy of your credit report at annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228.
Legally you’re allowed to order one free copy of your report from each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies (Experian, Equifax and Transunion) every 12 months.
You may order your reports from all three agencies at the same time, or order one from each company at different times throughout the year.
If you order your credit report directly from the agencies, rather than through annualcreditreport.com, there will be a charge each time.
Information to Review
Be sure the following information is current and correct:
- Name (including middle initial, JR/SR, maiden)
- Social Security Number
- Current and Previous Addresses
- Phone Number(s)
- Date of Birth
- Marital Status
- Employment Information
- Verify all accounts listed are accurate and belong to you
- Double check account balances
- Make sure accounts you closed voluntarily are correctly labeled as “closed by consumer”
- Confirm accuracy of negative entries
- Ensure negative entries aren’t duplicated
- Verify zero balances for settled accounts and bankruptcy discharges
- Be sure no negative information older than seven years old is listed (except as permitted by law)
I Found an Error. Now What?
If you find inaccuracies or need to dispute an entry, each credit reporting agency has a link on their website to initiate disputes.
You may also lodge disputes by mail, if you prefer. Here is an example of a dispute letter.
Creditors have up to 45 days to respond to disputes. The credit reporting agency will notify you of the outcome. If the dispute is successful, check your credit report(s) again at 30 & 60 days to ensure the changes are reflected accurately.
What if it’s Identity Theft?
If you’re concerned the errors on your credit report are the result of identity theft, place a 90-day fraud alert on the credit report with each credit reporting agency. Then follow these detailed identity theft recovery steps.
After you have completed the steps, file a police report about the identity theft, and get a copy of the police report or the report number.