Whether you like it or not, your credit score has a huge impact on your life. That number has a direct effect on everything from loans and major purchases such as a home or auto, to the cost of your insurance and your job – especially as a driver. As daunting as it seems, it’s vital for you to keep a thumb on the pulse of your credit report. Follow this relatively painless procedure to keep thinks in check.
“According to a 2004 U.S. Public Interest Research Group study, nearly 80 percent of surveyed reports had inaccuracies.” That being said, the chances of there being an inaccuracy in you credit report, are relatively high. Any errors that may turn up can be relatively easily corrected if you give your credit report an annual lookover instead of just going over the information prior to making a major purchase.
You’re entitled to receiving a free copy of your credit report once every year, twice each year if you live Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey or Vermont, and three times if you’re a resident of the state of Georgia.
Your free credit report can be ordered from the following agencies:
TransUnion: 1.800.916.8800 | Fraud Hotline: 1.800.680.7289
Experian: 1.888.397.3742 | Fraud Hotline: 1.888.397.3742
Equifax: 1.800.685.1111 | Fraud Hotline: 1.888.766.0008
Once you’ve ordered your report – the most important thing to review is the identification information. You will want to be certain that the name, social security number, and address all belong to you, as this is a very common error. If you do run into a discrepancy in this area, you will want to contact the credit bureau immediately to begin solving the problem – “All three bureaus have online dispute forms, which is a faster method of resolution than snail mail.”
You will also want to be sure that all of the lenders listed on the report are lenders that you are using, that the credit limits appear to be correct, and that any listed collections accounts are supposed to be there. If any of that information appears to be incorrect, you should cross-reference the information with a few other credit reports from other resources to find out if this is an error of the credit agency – if it’s only listed on one report, it is best to contact the lender and that agency for further information. If there appears to be incorrect information listed on more than one report, this is something that you’re going to immediately contact the lender about.
Double-checking the duration of the appearance of any negative activity is also a good idea. Off times, this information will not automatically fall off. Most negative information will stay on your credit report for seven years, aside from bankruptcy, which will appear on your credit report for ten years.
It’s also very important to take a look at any paid or closed collection, credit, or bank accounts. All of these should have a zero balance if they are no longer active, and could be affecting your credit score if the report incorrectly displays a balance. In this situation, you will want to contact the lending agency.
The last thing you need to do, if you’ve filed a dispute about a piece of information on your credit report is follow up. Keep good notes regarding who you’ve talked to, the details of the conversation, and when you’ve talked to them. Document the proposed date that any changes should be made by, and re-order the report at that time to confirm that the necessary changes have been made.