Have You Checked Your Credit Report Lately?

Brent Pittman —  02/17/2012

Did you know you can freeze your credit?

Each year I check my credit reports a few times a year to make sure everything looks o.k. You do know you can check your credit report for free right? You’ll have to pay to check your credit score and we’ll discuss that at a different time.

What is a credit report? It is a record of your credit history. Anything you’ve borrowed: student loans, credit cards, store cards, bank loans, mortgages, etc.

If you want to check your free credit reports from the three major companies: TransUnion, Experian, Equifax, click here You can only check each company once per year, so make sure you’re ready when you sit at the computer.

Tips For Checking Your Free Credit Report

  • Gather up your account information, old addresses, old phone numbers, etc. If you’ve moved a lot this can be a lot of  I had to call my mom to find out the phone number on my old school loan (I’m over 30) and I failed the questions for another certain company.
  • Be careful what you click or you could be signing up for credit monitoring or another service. You only want the FREE credit report. Don’t give any credit card info.
  • Have your printer and or screen capture tool ready. Once you close the page, you’ll have to pay to get access again. I use the free Webpage screenshot to capture and save my reports.
  • If you want to check your credit report throughout the year, use a different company (TransUnion, Experian, Equifax) every 3-4 months.

How to Check Your Credit Report

So what are you looking for once you have your credit report in hand?

  • Check for correct basic information: address, name, phone numbers, spellings, etc.
  • Make sure all credit (debt) is yours. Is there an account on there that you’ve never seen?  You’ll be able to dispute online, phone, or in writing depending on the company. This article by MoneyCrashers can help with fixing errors on your credit report
  • Make sure all payments and amounts are recorded correctly. Perhaps it shows you paid late, when in fact you were on time. This is something to dispute.
  • Check the status of all accounts (open, closed) Is there an open account from 10 years ago? Perhaps time to consider closing or at least find your old passwords for that account.
  • Check out the Inquiries section at the bottom. Who is looking at your credit? Promotional or is someone trying to obtain credit (Hard Inquiry).

Freeze Your Credit

I’ve also been thinking about putting a freeze on our credit reports to prevent anyone opening accounts in our name.

Ryan at The Military Wallet wrote an article about credit freezes that made me seriously think about doing this.

Cost: $10 for each of the 3 major reporting agencies. Drawback: You’ll have to pay to thaw them out again.

Am I sitting up late a night wondering if someone is stealing my identify? No, but I don’t want anything nefarious, as my brother-in-law might say, happen to our credit or financial identity.

Have you checked your Free Credit Report recently? How was your experience? 

Photo Credit: JanneM (Creative Commons)

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Brent Pittman

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Brent is a financial coach and writer looking for the perfect donut. He believes personal finance should be both fun and accessible to anyone willing to learn.