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Checking Your Credit Report

Every time you apply for credit, you're giving lenders permission to see your credit report. And other creditors with a qualified purpose — such as sending you a pre-approved credit card offer — can check your report without your permission. So shouldn't you see what they're seeing?
Be proactive and check your credit report on a regular basis. Not only will you be better prepared for negotiations with lenders, you can also get early warning signs of fraud.
When and how to get your report
You should review your credit report from the three major U.S. credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion):
  • At least once a year
  • Especially before making a large purchase, like a house or a car
Free credit reports
Credit agencies charge a small fee for reports. However, you are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit agencies once a year. You must order your free credit reports through www.annualcreditreport.com.

In addition, you’re entitled to a free report:
  • Within 60 days of being denied credit, insurance, or employment
  • Once a year if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days
  • If you’re on welfare
  • If your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft
How to fix errors on your report
If you find an error, fill out the dispute form provided by the credit reporting agency. The credit reporting agency must investigate and respond to you within 30 days. You can get your credit report from many sources, but only the credit agencies can actually correct the data on your report. Contact the three major credit agencies directly:
If you are in the process of applying for a loan, immediately notify your lender of any incorrect information in your report. Your lender will need to reorder your credit report and score once any changes have been made to your information at the credit reporting agency. Fixing small errors may have little or no effect on your score, but correcting significant errors may have a much more meaningful impact.
How mistakes are made
When a credit report contains errors, it is often because the report is incomplete, or contains information about someone else. This typically happens because:
  • The person applied for credit under different names (Robert Jones, Bob Jones, etc.).
  • Someone made a clerical error in reading or entering name or address information from a hand-written application.
  • The person gave an inaccurate Social Security number, or the lender misread the number.
  • Loan or credit card payments were inadvertently applied to the wrong account.
Some incorrect data, however, is an indication that you have been the victim of fraud or identity theft (for example, someone has applied for credit in your name or used your credit without your permission). It's crucial that you catch these mistakes and take action to fix the data on your report.
 
Certain information provided by Fair Isaac Corporation, San Rafael, California.