The first step to a healthy financial future is to check your credit report. Your credit report not only affects your ability to a get a loan, but could help you avoid identity theft.
Check your credit report at least once a year for important information about your financial accounts, how you paid your bills and if you filed for bankruptcy. Federal law allows you to get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting company (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).
To order your free credit report visit annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. You’ll need to provide your name, address, social security number and date of birth. Check that the information on your credit report is accurate and complete. If you find information that you believe doesn’t belong, take these actions:
- File a dispute. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumer reporting agencies and the creditors that provide information in your credit report are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information.
- Place a fraud alert. If errors on your credit report are the result of someone stealing your identity, you can request a fraud alert from each of the credit reporting companies. For more on recovering from identity theft visit identitytheft.gov.
Negative information cannot be removed from your credit report, if it is accurate. It takes time to improve your credit history, but rebuilding your credit is something you can fix yourself by:
- Paying bills by the due date
- Lowering the amount you owe on your credit cards
- Avoiding getting new credit cards
- Not closing older credit cards
After six to nine months, check your credit report again to see where you stand.
To learn more about your credit report, visit the Federal Trade Commission at consumer.ftc.gov