Checking your credit report
Identity theft is rampant everywhere. If you’re a victim of identity theft the costs can be staggering if it goes unnoticed. Not to mention the time it takes to clean it up after the damage is done. Most identity scams and thefts are not reported until months or years after they happen, at which point plenty of damage has been done.
Information contained in your credit report can influence your ability to obtain financing to buy a home, a car, a low rate on a credit card, secure insurance coverage, or even getting a job. So much in our lives rides on those 3-digit numbers that the three major credit reporting companies assign to us. Simply put, everyone should know what their credit report is reporting about them.
You can request a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three credit bureaus by going to http://www.AnnualCreditReport.com. It is the only online source authorized by the Federal Trade Commission through which you can order your free credit report under Federal law. Staggering requests for your free credit report is often recommended because it enables you to get a free report every four months. However, be aware that while the credit bureaus usually collect similar information about you, how they interpret it and then formulize a score varies from bureau to bureau. Also, not all debtors report data about you to all three bureaus. For example, if you have an auto loan, that lender might report your payment history only to Equifax but not to TransUnion and Experian.
Once you’ve obtained your free credit report, check that your personal information is accurate. Your date of birth, your Social Security Number, address, etc. will be stated on the report. It is critical that this information is correct In my career as a mortgage professional, I’ve seen many clients over the years with credit information that belonged to someone else. Usually it was because a Social Security number was confused with another person’s SS#, or a family member with a similar name had their credit information commingled, or just simply human error.
Verify that all credit accounts current and past belong to you. Your credit report details the date you opened the account, the date you closed it (if applicable), what your payment history is and your current balance. It distinguishes installment debt from revolving debt. If you’ve had any tax liens, wage garnishments, collections, court judgements, foreclosures or bankruptcies Ð all of this will be detailed.
Your credit report also shows any inquiries so you know who’s been looking at your credit. Too many inquiries will likely lower your credit score. Inquiries from companies you can’t identity might be a red flag of identity theft. In general, inquiries remain on your credit report for two years.
Susan Costello is owner of Home Sweet Home Loans. You can reach her at (530) 273-8658.
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