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How to Check Your Credit Report

Errors on your credit report can affect your ability to get a loan or even a job. Do you know what your credit report says about you?

In a recent post, we discussed the 5 factors that determine your credit score. All of these factors use information on your credit report to determine your credit score. We are constantly reminded that we need to check our credit report, but we assume it is a low priority to-do item. Errors on your credit report can affect your ability to get a loan or even a job. According to a 2007 CBS article, 80 percent of consumers have an error on their credit report. The first time I pulled my credit report, it had several of my grandfather’s (who I was named after) accounts and payment history on my report. Do you know what your credit report says about you?

There are three credit bureaus that collect information, and report a numerical credit score: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Each credit bureau will report a different score based on the information they chose to collect, so it is important to pay attention to all 3. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are entitled to receive a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the credit bureaus. Although you may see catchy TV advertisements for companies that will pull your credit report for a fee, these are scams and should be avoided.

To obtain your credit reports, go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Go through the process to request each of your three credit reports. It is important to note that you will not receive your credit score, only a copy of your actual report. During the process of getting your credit report, you can request your credit score, but you will have to pay for it. I don’t believe it is necessary to pay for your credit score, because knowing the number is not important. It is much more important to focus on the information in your credit report which is going to be used to determine your credit score.

Once you obtain your credit reports, go through them with a fine tooth comb. Check all of the information in your report to insure that it is completely accurate. Every error is important, so don’t brush over any of them. If you find errors (chances are you will) you will need to report it to the credit bureau and request that they fix it. They will verify that it is indeed an error, and are legally obligated to fix it within 30 days. Don’t expect the process to be easy as the credit bureaus tend to move slowly.

Once you have gone through your three credit reports and fixed all of the past errors, the last step is to put an alert on your calendar 1 year from now to check your credit reports again. Ideally you would check one of the three reports every foure months, however it is fine to pull them all once per year.

So what do you think? Is this the first time you have pulled your credit reports? Have you found any errors? Let me know about your experience by sharing in the comment section.How to check your credit report.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Randy1949 September 04, 2012 at 04:09 PM
I would like to know how it came to pass that third-party agencies who are subject to making mistakes have gained such power over so many aspects of our lives? Yes indeed, one's bill-paying history is germane when it comes to applying for credit, but in obtaining a job? Should a medical bankruptcy (or outstanding bills that a person is attempting to pay off) affect your ability to gain employment? How much does a credit rating affect a person who owns his own home outright, is retired, and doesn't intend to go into any sort of debt? I've been told my lack of mortgage and history of taking out any sort of loan will negatively affect my credit rating.
Alan Moore, MS, CFP® September 04, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Randy, great questions. Employers (especially for certain jobs) might feel they should know everything they can about the people they are hiring. Note that the employer may still hire the employee with a medical bankruptcy, but they will have to explain what happened. About 2/3 or employers that check credit scores will let the employee explain the event. Having a mortgage will probably raise your credit score, but that is not a reason to go take out a mortgage. If you are retired and will not be using credit, then there is no reason to have a good credit score. Click the link at the top of the article titled "the 5 factors that determine your credit score" to learn more about what factors determine your credit score.
Randy1949 September 04, 2012 at 06:20 PM
I try to explain that to my elderly mother, who was persuaded to pay a monthly fee for 'credit protection' and another for an ID monitor. If anything, the credit rating seems to have been expanded into a protection racket, with fees for getting your credit scores and services for protecting them. Of course, one third of those potential employers won't bother to let the applicant explain the reason behind the poor rating.
Alan Moore, MS, CFP® September 04, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Very good point. Instead of paying for these unnecessary services, I would recommend "Freezing" her credit. It basically stops anyone from applying for credit in her name, including her. She can of course "thaw" her credit report if she needed to apply for a loan, but the added step protects her identity, as well as protects her from the same kind of people that sell credit protection. You have to freeze the report at each of the 3 bureaus. Here is how you would freeze at Experian: http://www.experian.com/consumer/security_freeze.html And as to your point about the 1/3 of employers that wouldn't let the employee explain, I am a big believer in the employee wouldn't want to work for someone like that anyways, so they are better off in the long run.

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