BBB offers advice for National Credit Education Month

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Credit can be extremely helpful–but it can also get you in trouble if you’re not careful.

March is National Credit Education Month and Your BBB wants you to be prepared before you shop for a car, buy a house or open a credit card account.

A big part of that is checking your credit score. Your BBB encourages you to check your credit report regularly.

Your credit report has information about finances, bill payments and bankruptcy history.  Businesses use your credit report to evaluate your application if you apply for a loan or want to extend a line of credit. The report contains important information that can affect whether you get a loan and how much interest you will pay.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. To pull your free credit report, visit AnnualCreditReport.com. It is the only government authorized website for free credit reports.

It is important to pull your credit report is to make sure the information is accurate, complete and up-to-date. According to a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) study, one in five consumers had an error on at least one of their three credit reports.

When looking at your credit report, look for these red flags of identity theft:

  1. Any inquiries not initiated by you;
  2. Any debts reported that are not yours; or
  3. Contact information such as your address that was changed without your approval.

When pulling your annual credit report, BBB advises:

  • Be wary of unsolicited emails and pop-ups. AnnualCreditReport.com does not approach consumers via email, telemarketing or direct mail solicitations. Instead, go directly to AnnualCreditReport.com to request your free report.
  • Pull your children’s credit report. As child identity theft remains a national problem, it can be just as imperative to pull your child’s report as it is to pull your own. While the credit reporting agencies do not knowingly maintain credit files on minor children, you can contact the credit reporting agencies directly to see what information, if any, they have about your child to avoid a financial mess for them in the future.
  • Dispute inaccuracies. If you find inaccurate information on your credit report, immediately contact the reporting agency you pulled the report from and file a dispute. Inaccurate, derogatory information can lower your credit score, and in some cases, may indicate fraudulent activity.

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