Keep an Eye on Your Credit Report

By: Peter Kenny

Vital personal information such as where you live, your place of employment, your bill paying methods, and whether you've ever been arrested or declared bankruptcy is all contained within your credit report. This information is vital because it can affect som many areas of your life.

Your credit score is used by lenders to determine interest rates for mortgages and other loans. Employers are allowed to check credit reports before offering employment. And increasingly, auto insurance companies are checking credit reports before determining policy premiums. Even if you've never been in an accident or received a ticket, you may still find yourself paying higher rates for insurance.

There are three major credit reporting agencies that gather your financial information and provide your credit report to lenders, insurers, employers and other businesses that have a legal right to access your report. These three major companies are Experian, Equifax and Trans Union.

You should be aware that you are entitled, under federal law, to one free copy of your report from each of these agencies annually. Consumers should get a one copy from each agency because they all get their information from different sources at different times of the month and each report may differ slightly from the other.

It's recommended to stagger your requests so that you receive the reports separately, one report approximately every four months.

Checking your credit reports regularly is clearly very important, given the information they contain. When looking over each report, make sure that all the information is accurate and up to date. You should also check for any charges or accounts you don't recognize. This can be a sign of identity theft. If your personal information, such as your social security number or credit card number is stolen, any fradulent charges or accounts will appear on your credit report.

If any inaccurate information is found on your report, it should be reported immediately. The consumer reporting company should be notified in writing. Clearly outline the information you believe to be incorrect or inaccurate. Provide as much detail as possible to back up your statements. The reporting agency is required to investigate your claims. The company that provided the inaccurate information to the reporting agency will receive a copy of your dispute as well. If the information is determined to be inaccurate, the provider is required to notify all three reporting agencies of the correction.

In the event that the investigation does not find that the information is inaccurate, you may ask to have your statement attached to your credit report. This will allow anyone who looks over your report to see that you have disputed the item and the reasons for your dispute.

Credit Matters
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