Federal law allows you to review your reports every year for free. Here’s why you need to do it…
The Fair Credit Reporting Act is the main federal law that regulates the information contained in every consumer credit report. It says what the bureaus can and can’t report about you and how long that information remains publicly available.
It’s also the law that states that every consumer can receive a free credit report once every 12 months. It mandates that each bureau must provide a copy for you free of charge when you request it. You can contact each bureau for a mailed hardcopy at 1-877-322-8228 or you can download them through annualcreditreport.com.
Unlike “strings attached” offers of free credit reports from for-profit companies, this site lets you download with no strings. You don’t have to enter your credit card information so they can charge you after a free trial. It’s a free download, free and clear. Just answer a few questions to confirm your identity and you can download your reports once per year.
Welcome to the Game of Good Credit! If you want to win, you need the right strategy and you must be able to move effectively through your credit report. From start to finish, there are six sections that can come into play.
The starting point is personal information. This includes basic details likes your name, address, employers and aliases. As you move along, check that everything is correct – especially for aliases. Because if you get confused for another player it can set you back significantly.
The second section you pass through is also the largest – credit history. You move through each account to review payment history and account status. Remember each late payment sets you back, bit by bit. And the longer an account goes unpaid, the further it will put you back. Accounts in good standing with a positive payment history help you move forward. But if you fall behind you can also land on other negative items, like collections, charge-offs, repossessions and foreclosure, which can really cost you credit-wise.
The next section is where you encounter credit inquiries. Too many hard inquiries from authorized credit checks can set you back here.
The next section covers public records, like civil lawsuits and court judgments. If you don’t have any of these records on file, this section may not appear and you can skip ahead. But if you owe something like bad child support, it can slow you up. And you may have to payout in order to get moving again. This section also includes third-party collection accounts. These can put you back in a big way, so it’s best to avoid them.
Next you’ll run into a section for consumer statements. If you lose a dispute to remove a negative item, you can add a consumer statement that explains what happened. The effect of these statements on your game is always neutral.
Finally, you’ll encounter a summary of your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This isn’t really part of the game, so much as a list of rules for fair gameplay. If you read this it helps you understand your credit better so it’s easier to win. You can learn about all of the rights protected by federal law, so it’s easier to win and achieve the best score possible.
It’s important to note that each credit bureau has their own version of your credit report. So, fields may not be exactly arranged the same from one bureau to the next. While the board may look a little different, gameplay should be the same.
For more information on winning the game of good credit, visit ConsolidatedCreidt.org.
Reason to Review #1: You know for certain how you look to creditors
When you apply for a new credit card or loan, creditors run a credit check. They get your credit reports from each bureau to assess your “creditworthiness.” That’s an assessment of your risk as a borrower. How likely are you to repay a debt?
If you review your reports diligently every year, you won’t have any unwelcome surprises when you apply for a new credit line. You can feel confident that you will get approved.
Without reviewing your reports, you fly blind anytime you apply for a loan or credit card. So, an annual review reduces financial stress and gives you peace of mind to apply with confidence.
Reason to Review #2: You can catch mistakes and errors early
A main reason to check your reports annually is to identity errors and mistakes. This is important, because even if you do everything right credit-wise, an error could lead to a rejected loan application. Again, you don’t want any surprises when you apply for financing.
When you review your consumer credit report once each year, you can act quickly to dispute and correct mistakes. This means negative items that could decrease your score get removed promptly. Simply follow the credit repair process to dispute any mistakes you find and you can make sure your profile isn’t bogged down by errors.
Reason to Review #3: It’s a strong line of defense against ID theft
Consumer credit reports are often the first sign you have that someone stole your identity. Fraud protection on credit cards usually only catches suspicious charges. But what about if someone opens a new account in your name?
This type of fraud, usually linked to Social Security identity theft, really only appears in your credit report. When someone opens a new account in your name, the creditor or lender makes a report to the credit bureaus. Your credit report lists that account.
As you read your credit report, look for any accounts that you don’t recognize. You can work with the creditor’s fraud department to close the account. Then you can ensure the account gets removed from your credit report. You can also take extra steps to protect your Social Security number, such as registering it online.