You've probably seen commercials for a "free credit report" (you may recall that guy playing his guitar in the seafood restaurant lamenting his predicament). Be aware that these companies will give you a free credit report and/or credit score initially, but they will also most likely also ask for your credit card number. If you don't cancel within a certain time, they'll charge you for membership.
An award-winning writer, editor and content strategist, Bob Musinski focuses on trends and issues related to credit cards and loans for U.S. News. He also has written dozens of stories for publications such as AAP News, Naperville Magazine and Natural Products Insider. He worked as an editor and reporter for three daily newspapers and an international wire service, where he covered events such as the World Series and Super Bowl and earned a national writing award from the Associated Press. His experience also includes planning and writing annual reports; strategizing, editing and writing for blogs; speechwriting; and strategic messaging development.
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Even if you feel that you have good credit and are in a good position financially, you should still obtain your individual credit file annually, so you can comb through it and catch any potential problems that the reporting agencies may not have caught regarding identity theft or fraud. Looking for signs of identity theft is just as important as your actual credit report and scores.
You're entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. Order online from annualcreditreport.com, the only authorized website for free credit reports, or call 1-877-322-8228. You will need to provide your name, address, social security number, and date of birth to verify your identity.
There are a lot of myths out there about credit scoring – hopefully we can help you understand FICO scoring, so you can take action to build your score. There are five major components FICO uses to determine a credit score. Fortunately, understanding the secret sauce can help you build a strong score and healthy credit report. Both a 700+ score and healthy credit report will help keep the rest of your financial life cheaper by enabling you to get lower interest rates on loans and approved for top-tier financial products.
Unfortunately, identity theft is a very real threat to everyone. Even if you don’t keep an eye on your credit reports every other week, that’s OK because monitoring your score can help you make sure your identity isn’t being fraudulently used - a drastic change in your score can indicate that something may be wrong and help you keep track of how your sensitive information is being used.
Consumers who visit these free credit report sites will now be greeted with a large notice at the top of the page informing them they can receive a free credit report from annualcreditreport.com. The link is required to be clickable, so that customers can easily visit the site without having to type anything into their web browser. The notice should read as follows, or similar:
Your credit report and score play a big role in determining your ability to receive a loan, the interest rate you will pay, your ability to rent a house/apartment, buy a cellphone plan, and possibly even get a job or security clearance. The need is there, but what many of these companies don’t want you to know is that you can get a copy of your credit report for free through AnnualCreditReport.com.
Look for information that appears outdated or inaccurate. A financial institution may not have reported a payment correctly, for example, or it may have confused you with someone else who has a similar name. You should also look for accounts that you don't recognize. This could be a sign that your identity has been stolen. In that case, you should contact the credit bureau and financial institution immediately to alert them of the problem. Then place a fraud alert on your account so future creditors know to be extra cautious when opening new lines of credit in your name.
AnnualCreditReport.com is the Only Authorized Source for Free Annual Credit Reports under federal law. Other sites often require users to pay hidden fees or agree to additional services. For example, some sites provide a free credit report if you enroll in a new service. If you don't cancel the service during a short trial period, you're likely to see membership fees on your credit card statement. Learn more by clicking here. Watch the videos:
Furthermore, unsecured revolving credit will be very difficult to come by. Insurance companies will tend to price insurance policies up for people in your credit category due to the potential for nonpayment of premiums or the higher-than-average risk for committing insurance fraud. Also, some jobs may not be available to applicants with fair credit, such as jobs in the financial sector.
It’s a good idea to look into inquiries from companies whose names you don’t recognize. While it’s possible they could be from companies you’ve done business with (if they report under a different company name, for example), they could also indicate fraud like identity theft, which we mentioned can bring down your credit scores. You’ll want to dispute any errors you discover as soon as you can to avoid further damage. Not sure where to start? You can learn more about disputing an error on your credit report by reading this primer.
If you’ve recently gone through a bankruptcy, foreclosure, or even a civil judgment, it probably isn’t a surprise to you that your credit has been impacted. Any abrupt changes to your credit can seriously affect the number that shows on your credit report. Unfortunately, unlike the scenarios listed in previous points, these derogatory marks are the result of what lenders consider major delinquencies –– in other words, significant implications about your ability to manage your finances.
The amount of credit you owe also affects your credit score in a big way. If your credit-to- debt ratio (how much you owe compared to your available credit) is low, your credit score will benefit, since it illustrates that you don’t rely too much on credit. You can figure out your utilization rate by dividing your total credit balances by your total credit limits.
Another common question is whether checking your own credit report or score can hurt it. The answer is no. Checking your own credit scores doesn't lower them. Checking your own credit report creates a special kind of inquiry (known commonly as a soft inquiry) that isn't considered in credit score calculations. Without the risk of harming your scores by checking your credit report and scores frequently, don't steer away from viewing them as often as you need to.
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To order, visit annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228. Or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Do not contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies individually. They are providing free annual credit reports only through annualcreditreport.com, 1-877-322-8228 or mailing to Annual Credit Report Request Service.