Checking your credit report periodically is the only way to keep yourself safe from identity theft and other online crimes.
- Get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting agency.
- Ensure that the information on all of your credit reports is correct and up to date.
There are three different credit reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. They share data, but each makes its own report. You’re entitled to one free report from each agency every year.
You can get your credit report free at annualcreditreport.com. This is the only website approved by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for this purpose. Take care to avoid “imposter” websites operated by scammers. They may use similar-sounding website names or common misspellings in an attempt to trick you and get your personal information.
There are other situations under which you can get a free copy of your credit report. If you are denied credit, you can request a copy of the information that was used to make that determination, provided you do so within 60 days. If you have been the victim of certain kinds of fraud, the service will also provide you with a free copy of your credit report in order to help you make it right. These checks will never hurt your credit score.
If you’ve requested your report online, it should be available immediately. You may need to answer a few questions to verify your identity.
Go over your report
1. Find accounts that are open in your name and see if there’s any collection activity. You’ll also want to take a look at the number and frequency of inquiries.
2. Accounts may be broken down by type (mortgage, installment, revolving and other) or listed by date. You’ll want to look through each one to make sure you recognize them. Every store credit card you open and every installment loan you make should be listed.
3. If there are any accounts you don’t recognize, make a note of them and contact the credit reporting agency. Look particularly for accounts going to P.O. boxes or listed with addresses in other states.
4. “Negative items” include bankruptcies, accounts in collection or accounts reporting as past due. Such activity is another good place to check for fraud. If someone else opened an account in your name, they likely won’t be paying the bills. You’ll also want to look for inaccuracies that may be hurting your credit score. If there’s an account listed here that was discharged in bankruptcy, for example, you’ll want to handle this.
5. The list of inquiries shows you the number of times someone has checked your credit. No one can do this without your permission, so if there are more inquiries than you remember, it could be a sign someone has stolen your identity. It might be worthwhile to put a freeze on an ability to open new accounts until you’ve gotten everything resolved.
1. Each reporting agency maintains a separate error-reporting process, so you’ll have to report each error to the agency that made it. For basic errors, like address, name or personal information, the agency can make those corrections with minimal trouble. For more serious errors, you’ll need to send a dispute letter.
The FTC has a template for a dispute letter available on its website.
Send your letter via certified mail. This costs a little more than a stamp, but you’ll get proof of receipt. This is important because the agency has 30 days to make a determination about your dispute. They’ll send your dispute to the information provider (the company that told the agency about the account or negative item).
If the reporting agency finds your claim to be correct, you can request that they send copies of the updated report to anyone who received your credit report in the last six months, and to any employer who pulled your credit report over the last two years. They’re also required to send you an updated copy with any new information in it.
Stay on it
Checking your credit report periodically is the only way to keep yourself safe from identity theft and other modern online crimes. If you need assistance, Duke University Federal Credit Union is here to help. Call, click or stop by today to find out how we can make your life easier!