When was the last time you checked your credit report? Nowadays, checking your credit report is essential in order to verify all outstanding debts and maintain a strong defense against identity theft.
Especially with the news announced by Equifax that an additional 2.4 million people were impacted by the 2017 hack that affected 145.5 million people nationwide.
In recognition of National Credit Education Month, BBB encourages consumers to be in control of your finances.
Your credit report has information about your finances, bill payments and bankruptcy history. Employers, insurers and other businesses use your credit report to evaluate your applications for a credit card, loan, insurance or renting. In Texas, employers have the right to do credit checks using government-maintained databases; however, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that employers give written notice that a credit check will be done.
The 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 and government-authorized credit report, visit AnnualCreditReport.com.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, having a copy of your credit report helps guard against identity theft. When looking at your credit report, look for these red flags of identity theft:
- Any inquiries not initiated by you;
- Any debts reported that are not yours; or
- Contact information such as your address, that is changed without your approval
When pulling your annual credit report, BBB offers the following advice:
- Be wary of unsolicited emails and pop-ups. Beware of “imposter” websites that claim to offer free credit reports or free credit scores. Only AnnualCreditReport.com is authorized to give you the free annual credit reports you’re entitled to by law. Also, AnnualCreditReport.com does not approach consumers via email, telemarketing or direct mail solicitations.
- Don’t give out your credit card number. Many websites like Mint.com and CreditKarma.com offer access to your free credit score for free and you don’t have to enter your credit card number at any time. However, if a site does require your credit card information before sharing your credit score, it could be a sign that it plans to charge you or enroll you in a monthly service, so you might want to consider going elsewhere.
- 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.