We often advise consumers to obtain copies of their credit reports once a year to monitor them for accuracy and possible fraud. If you haven't done so in a while, now is a good time to get a look at what your creditors have been saying about you.
Credit reports contain information on your payment history with different creditors, inquiries made by various financial institutions, and public records such as foreclosures or bankruptcies. Consumer reporting companies collect and sell this information to lenders and other businesses that have a permissible interest in it. Your credit record can influence the rates you pay for borrowing and insurance, among other things.
Order your free credit reports online at www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877-322-8228. This is the official channel through which you can get your report from each of the three major consumer credit reporting bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can get all three all at once, or stagger your requests over the year to keep closer track on your records.
Other Web sites also promote free credit reports, but many of them tie those reports to fee-based services such as credit monitoring. A 2007 Consumer Reports WebWatch analysis of 24 such sites found that nine were owned or closely connected to TransUnion and eight were owned or otherwise closely connected to Experian. The report found that many of the alternative sites had names—like freecreditreport.com—that are similar enough to annualcreditreport.com to cause confusion.
Once you have your credit report, check it for accuracy:
- Make sure that your name, address, Social Security number, and all other personal information is correct.
- Make sure that there are no accounts, debts, bankruptcies, or court judgments on your report that don’t belong to you.
- Make sure that payment histories and balances are correct and that any errors you have reported have been fixed.
To help consumers take advantage of their rights to a free annual credit report, Consumers Union is offering a free online guide, Your Credit Matters, with advice on how to order a free credit report, review it for accuracy, and correct any mistakes.