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For an extra year, it will be easier than ever to monitor your credit report and check for errors.
The country’s three largest credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – said on Tuesday that consumers can access their credit reports through a central site up to once a week, free of charge, until April 2022.
This is a waiver of the annual free exam required by the federal government, which includes a history of your financial accounts and can be used by banks and other lenders in deciding whether to grant you a loan or credit card. .
“This extension makes a lot of sense,” said John Ulzheimer, credit expert and president of the Ulzheimer Group in Atlanta. “It fits with the need to be engaged with our credit report.”
The credit reporting companies’ move is an extension of a free once-a-week option they launched in April 2020. The announcement also came a day after US consumer advocacy group PIRG released a report showing that 63% of consumer complaints facts at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2020 were related to errors on credit reports.
It is worth checking your credit for errors before applying for a loan or credit to make sure all of the information on the report is correct. And if it doesn’t, there are steps you can take to correct these errors. Additionally, some credit report errors are the result of identity theft and fraud. Of course, the credit bureaus can’t know that an account isn’t really yours unless you let them know about the problem.
Although these free weekly reports – which you can access at annualcreditreport.com – do not contain any credit score, they have an effect on these three-digit numbers (which generally range from 300 to 850). And that score is factored into lending decisions – the higher it is, the more likely lenders are to give you a better interest rate on a loan or line of credit.
There are a few things to keep in mind when looking for mistakes.
For starters, it’s worth checking your report from each of the credit bureaus.
“You don’t have a single credit report,” Ulzheimer said. “You have three of them, and it is highly unlikely that they are carbon copies of each other.
“The [agencies] collaborate on things but don’t share databases. “
Additionally, reports typically only reflect information provided to them by other companies – primarily financial services companies and debt collectors, Ulzheimer said.
So, if there is an error on your report, it usually means that the information provided was inaccurate, whether due to a bank inappropriately reporting the status of an account or assigning the account to another person in your file, or even due to card fraud using your personal information to do so).
Additionally, if you want to check your report with each credit bureau on the central site, you must request each individually. And each time, you’ll need to provide your personal information, including your name, date of birth, and social security number.
You may also need to accurately answer questions to verify your identity. This could include responses related to current or past employers, monthly loan payment amount, or previous addresses.
When looking at your report, check to see if there is anything unknown, Ulzheimer said.
“Just start at the top of the gear and work your way down,” he added. “The point is to watch everything.”
It’s important to remember that what you’re seeing is based on the previous month, Ulzheimer said. In other words, you can see the balance of an account you just paid.
If you see an error, you should dispute it with the credit bureau that generated the report. You can usually do this through an online form or by mail. The Federal Trade Commission, which offers a letter model to follow, recommends sending a detailed letter and copies (not originals) of all supporting documents by certified mail with “acknowledgment of receipt requested”. A copy of your report with the errors circled may also be included, according to the FTC.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the credit bureau then generally has 30 days (in some cases 45 days) to investigate your claim. Essentially, this means that the credit bureau asks the company that provided the information to verify that it is correct.
You should also contact the entity that reported the error (the FTC has a letter model you can look). By law, this company and the credit bureau are required to correct inaccurate entries on your credit report.
If a credit bureau investigation does not resolve the situation, you can request that a status of the dispute be included on your file and in future reports, according to the FTC.
In addition, you can also request that the statement be provided to anyone who has received a copy of your report in the recent past. However, you can expect this service to be chargeable.