Most of the commercials for free credit reports actually do provide the opportunity to get a free credit report, but there is a monthly charge for credit checks and monitoring or other services that can cost you a substantial sum of money each year. The good news, though, is that about 10 years ago the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enacted a law that requires each of the credit bureaus to provide you a free credit report on an annual basis. The free credit report is available by calling 877-322-8228, by completing a form available here and mailing in the request, or by going to the website annualcreditreport.com.
Recently, I saw a statistic that over 35% of the American population has incorrect information appearing on their credit report. You might be surprised to learn that credit reporting is not just for car loans and mortgages, but it is also used by companies for making decisions regarding approvals of cell phone plans, job opportunities, and even interest rates you would get for a savings account. Additionally, incorrect information can affect your ability to open credit cards, cause reductions in credit limits, and lessen options such as miles and rewards available to you.
The three credit bureaus all have most of the same information but some companies only report to one agency due to the cost of reporting to all three. For example, in the past ComEd only reported to one bureau and the information was often incorrect. Therefore, it’s important to check all three and look for differences.
Each year you should print your credit reports and review it for any inaccuracies. You will notice the name of the creditor may be different from the name that you know. If there is a tradename sometimes it is listed. Other information to take note of includes the address of the creditor, your high balance, the balance available, your current balance, and your payment history. Your current balance may be from a few months prior to the date you request the credit report, so if that number is not accurate to the penny it should not worry you. However, if you see late payments that are incorrect or items you do not know about then you should take action.
Each issue has a different path for resolution. The different credit bureaus’ websites list the way to disputes the findings and information listed. For example, if a missed payment or late payment is noted incorrectly on the credit report, you should contact the specific company directly and discuss your issues. That company will be the one who can rectify the situation.
You may also see that something like a student loan is listed for five or even six times. Loans are often sold and serviced by different companies, perhaps without your knowledge. If you see balances on these items or late listings it may be of concern to you.
If you see credit lines that you know you did not open, that is a definite cause for concern and when the real problems begin. The first step is to contact the company by the phone number listed within the credit report. Inform them that the credit line was opened without your permission and appears on your credit report. Compile as much information as you can and take that information to the police. Once the police create a report, provide that report number to the credit agencies.
If you encounter serious problems with your credit report and you need the assistance of an attorney, I am here to help.