Sunday, April 28, 2013
Annual Credit Report
If you haven't already, you should take advantage of the free annual credit report you are eligible to get each year. Make sure you get it at annualcreditreport.com which is the official site. While you don't get to see your FICO score, you do get to look through all the accounts you have currently open. The accounts will show the status for each month it has been opened. Hopefully, you will only see green OKs which means that each month you either fully paid off your account or you didn't draw a balance. Yellow and red symbols usually indicate late payments and will have a negative impact on your credit score. If you see an unfamiliar credit card or loan taken out under your name, you may be the victim of identity fraud.
There are 3 major credit bureaus (aka consumer reporting agencies): Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. When you ask for your free credit report, you can get one from each of these at the same time or stagger your requests and ask for your free credit report from a different bureau at 3 different times of the year. One reason why you might want all three at once since the bureaus collect information slightly differently and are located in different regions. They all also calculate FICO scores slightly differently, but that is for another post. I would recommend staggering when you ask for your credit reports evenly throughout the year to better monitor your accounts. This way, you can get a report every four months and limit any damage from potential identity theft.
Also, remember to save your reports on a file if you like to keep your own records. That way, you can also look back to see how your credit report has changed over the year. You can also identify anything that seems odd or strange over time. Make sure that you hide your social security number on these documents if you do save them, just in case they somehow get into the wrong hands.