Legal How-To: Checking Your Credit Report - Law and Daily Life
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Legal How-To: Checking Your Credit Report

Have you checked your credit report lately? A new FindLaw survey shows that a whopping 22% of Americans have never checked their credit report.

The survey found that between the genders, women are more likely to check their credit score than men, and those in the higher income brackets are more likely to check as well.

That's despite the fact that the process for checking your credit report is pretty straightforward -- and best of all, it's free. Here are a few simple steps to follow:

1. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com.

In 1970, Congress passed the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which requires each of the three national credit-reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion -- to provide consumers with a free copy of their credit report every 12 months.

To make it simpler for consumers, these agencies have set up a free website for users to obtain their credit reports, AnnualCreditReport.com.

Note that this is the only website where you can receive your annual credit report for free from each agency. It should not be confused with sites like FreeCreditReport.com, which only gives you a credit score and report from one agency, or others that require you to sign up for a trial membership.

2. Enter Your Personal Information.

When you visit AnnualCreditReport.com, the site will ask you what state you're in, followed by the following information:

  • Name,
  • Date of birth,
  • Social Security Number, and
  • Addresses you've used in the past two years.

You will then be shown a list of the three credit reporting agencies. The site will guide you to each credit reporting agency's website, where you will be able to enter verifying information and receive free, printable PDFs of your credit reports.

3. Read Your Free Credit Reports.

A credit report is different from a credit score, which is the numeric representation of the information contained in your credit report.

The credit report itself contains a wealth of information, including:

  • A list of reported prior addresses and phone numbers,
  • A list of bank accounts and loans in your name,
  • A month-to-month breakdown of each account, indicating whether payments were made on time or late,
  • An indication of whether an account is in collections or foreclosure, and
  • Which companies have accessed your credit information and their contact information.

Check your reports for anything that strikes you as incorrect or strange, as you may have been the target of identity theft.

Next Steps

With the wealth of free information available, it pays to check your credit report. But as you may discover, these reports aren't always 100% accurate.

If you find anything false or strange, contact the credit reporting agency and work with them to correct the problem. If that doesn't resolve the issue, or if the discrepancy is too complicated to handle on your own, it may be wise to contact an experienced lawyer near you.

Are you facing a legal issue you'd like to handle on your own? Suggest a topic for our Legal How-To series by sending us a tweet @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #HowTo.

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