It is recommended that you review your credit report regularly to stay on top of changes to your credit profile, to confirm the accuracy and completeness of information that is being reported, and to be certain that no one has stolen your identity and opened credit accounts or taken out loans in your name.
Many are unaware that there is not just one credit report on you. Most likely, each of the three major consumer credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) has a report on you. You are entitled to obtain a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months from each of these three bureaus. However, you must request it; this is not a service that is provided to you automatically.
The easiest way to accomplish this is to use a “one-stop” outlet established by Congress to make it easier for consumers to get their credit reports from the three bureaus. You may also use this contact point to acquire your credit score, which will entail payment of a modest fee.
You may access the Web site at www.annualcreditreport.com or call the call the toll-free telephone number at (877) 322-8228.
Please be advised that www.annualcreditreport.com is the only authorized online site for your free annual report from the three major consumer reporting agencies. The credit bureaus are not proactively calling consumers to ask for personal information or to offer these free reports, so hang up on telemarketers that claim to be offering that service. Also, do not use other Web sites until you check them out with the Better Business Bureau www.org, and do not respond to pop-up ads or e-mails with embedded hyperlinks, supposedly directing you to the annualcreditreport.com site.
These could be scams! Forward them to firstname.lastname@example.org, the Federal Trade Commission's database of deceptive spam.
Once you have a copy of your credit report, review it carefully. Your credit report is the basis for your credit score, so you want it to be as accurate and complete as possible.
If you do find an error in your credit report, you have the legal right to dispute it. You should immediately contact the credit-reporting agency, in writing, to advise them of inaccurate or incomplete information that appears in your credit report. Refer to your credit report for specific instructions on how to dispute information that is in your file. Remember to keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures (receipts, sales slips, billing statements and the like), and to send your letter by certified mail "return receipt requested."
The credit bureau is required by law to investigate your complaint, usually within 30 days, to send you a prompt response in writing, to correct or delete any inaccurate information, and to send you a copy of your report if the investigation results in any change.
Because creditors generally automatically update credit bureau information once each month, it is possible that incorrect information removed from a credit bureau file could reappear because of a pending creditor update. Therefore, you should re-check your credit report within 60 days to confirm that it is accurate and up-to-date.
If the credit bureau's investigation does not resolve your concerns, you are entitled to submit a brief statement (100 words or less) about the matter, which the credit bureau must attach to your credit report. This enables you to provide your side of the story to lenders, potential employers or anyone else who sees your credit report.
If you are denied a loan, insurance, employment or other benefit based on your credit report, the law requires the company to tell you the reason for the denial and the name of the credit bureau.