How To Check Your Credit Report
According to a new survey from the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, 35% of Americans have never looked at their credit report. Of the 61% who have checked their reports, two-thirds have had to report inaccuracies to a credit bureau.
It is important to know what to look for on your report, as well as what to do if you have inaccurate information on the report.
How to Get Your Credit Report
All consumers are entitled to one free credit report each year from each major credit bureau every 12 months: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. You may obtain them at AnnualCreditReport.com, or reach out to each bureau individually by phone, by mail, or on their website. You may receive additional reports for a small fee within the 12 month period, or you may request copies for free if you are a victim of fraud. You may also qualify for a free copy if you have been denied employment or a line of credit as a result of your credit history.
How to Read Your Credit Report
Your three credit reports may look slightly different from one another. That is because your debts, credit inquiries and other data may not be fully available to all three bureaus. Nevertheless, most credit reports provide the same information:
- Personal information, such as your name, address and Social Security Number
- Public records, including judgments made against you and when items will fall off your report
- Accounts not in good standing, including anything that has gone to collections
- Accounts in good standing, including those that have been paid off
- Revolving accounts (mostly credit cards), including monthly payment history
- Credit inquiries—companies that have requested your credit history as part of a loan application, tenant screening, etc.
The most important areas to focus on are your public records, accounts not in good standing, and revolving accounts. If there are any issues in these areas, you will need to resolve these matters.
Also look for unauthorized credit inquiries to make sure someone is not using your information without your consent. Report the false inquiry to the credit bureau (each request reduces your score slightly), but more importantly, find out where your information was used so you can combat long-term identity theft.
How to Report an Error
If you notice an error on your credit report, you may file a dispute with that credit bureau. If the error occurs on multiple reports, submit a dispute to each bureau individually. You can file a dispute online or by mail. If filed by mail, attach documents supporting your claim, such as payment receipts or bank statements. Send a dispute letter detailing the nature of the dispute, and request a return receipt. This gives proof the credit bureau received the dispute.
After filing the dispute, the credit bureau may contact you for additional information about the dispute. Notification will be sent when your dispute has been reviewed. If approved, the inaccurate information should be corrected within 60-90 days. If the dispute is not approved, the record will remain on your credit report until you can provide sufficient evidence to support the claim.