Free weekly credit reports that have been renewed for a year and give you the freedom to search for bugs
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For another year, it will be easier than ever to monitor your credit report – and check for errors.
The country’s three largest credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – announced Tuesday that consumers will be able to access their credit report up to once a week for free through a central website through April 2022.
This is a departure from the federally required free annual look at your report, which contains a history of your financial accounts and can be used by banks and other lenders in deciding whether to get a loan or a credit card.
“This expansion makes a lot of sense,” said John Ulzheimer, credit expert and president of the Ulzheimer Group in Atlanta. “It is consistent with the need to be preoccupied with our credit report.”
The credit bureaus move is an extension of a free weekly option they initiated in April 2020. The announcement also came a day after consumer protection group US PIRG released a report showing that 63% of consumer complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2020 related to credit report errors.
It is worth checking for any flaws in your credit before applying for a loan or loan to ensure that all of the information in the report is correct. If it doesn’t, there are steps you can take to correct these errors. Some credit report errors are also the result of identity theft and fraud. Of course, the credit bureaus can’t know that an account isn’t really yours unless you point out the problem to them.
While these free weekly reports, accessible at annualcreditreport.com, don’t include credit scores, they do affect those three-digit numbers (which are generally between 300 and 850). And that score plays a role in credit decisions – the higher it is, the more likely it is that lenders will give you a better interest rate on a loan or line of credit.
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There are a few things to consider when troubleshooting a bug.
For starters, it pays to check your report from any credit bureau.
“You have no credit report,” said Ulzheimer. “You have three and they are highly unlikely to be copies of each other.
“The [agencies] work together on some things, but they don’t share databases. “
Additionally, the reports generally only reflect information made available to them by other companies – mostly financial services companies and debt collection agencies, Ulzheimer said.
So, if there is an error in your report, it generally means that the information provided was inaccurate, whether it was due to a bank failing to properly report the status of an account or associating the account with someone else on your file, or even due to Fraud (ie someone opens a credit card with your personal information to do so).
If you want to check your report on the central website at each credit bureau, you will need to request each one individually. And every time you have to provide your personal information – including your name, date of birth and social security number.
You may also need to precisely answer questions related to answering your identity. This could include answers to current or previous employers, the monthly loan amount, or previous addresses.
Just start at the top of the report and go down. It’s about looking at everything.
President of the Ulzheimer Group
When you look at your report, see if there is anything unknown, Ulzheimer said.
“Just start at the top of the report and go down,” he added. “It’s about looking at everything.”
It’s important to remember that what you see is based on the previous month, Ulzheimer said. In other words, you can see a balance indicator for an account that you just paid out.
If you see a mistake it should be denied with the credit bureau that made the report. You can usually do this via an online form or via email. The Federal Trade Commission, which offers a sample letter, recommends sending a detailed letter and copies (not originals) of all receipts by registered mail, labeled “Return Receipt Requested”. It may also include a copy of your report with circled errors, according to the FTC.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the credit bureau typically has 30 days (45 days in some cases) to complete an investigation into your claim. Essentially, this means that the credit bureau will ask the company that provided the information to verify that it is correct.
You should also contact the entity that reported the error (the FTC has a sample letter you can review). The law requires both that company and the credit bureau to correct inaccurate entries in your credit report.
According to the FTC, if a credit bureau investigation does not resolve the situation, you can request that a dispute resolution be included on your file and in future reports.
In addition, you can also request that the statement be made available to anyone who has received a copy of your report in the recent past. However, you can expect to be charged a fee for this service.