What to look for in your free annual credit report

What to look for in your free annual credit report

The three major credit bureaus TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax are required by federal law to provide you with a free annual credit report. You have the option of getting all the three credit reports at the same time, or you may also order them individually as per your need. If you choose to order all three reports at the same time, you have the opportunity to compare them all and verify information. Be aware that, if you order all three at the same time, you may not order your free reports again for a full calendar year.

Those choosing to order the free reports in a staggered manner will be able to track and verify new information like accounts and loans being added to the reports. Once you receive your credit report, look out for these details:

Personal information
Check if your social security number, birthday, employment address and status etc are correct.

This lists everybody who has reviewed your credit report in the past two years. Check for its accuracy. A credit check by a lender or a landlord is called Hard Inquiry, this also shows up on your credit report.

Credit information
See whether details about bank and credit accounts, credit limits, loans, balances and credit history are correctly mentioned.

Public records
Collection agency action, bankruptcies, foreclosures and lawsuit details are mentioned.

Account history
The bureau would have mentioned your payment history, the status of all real estate, installment and revolving credit accounts.

If any of the information is incorrect, as a borrower, you may reach out to the credit reporting company or the concerned business. In case of any discrepancies, provide the credit bureau with a written statement pertaining to the information under dispute. The bureau then opens an investigation with the particular creditor and upon completion of the same, a report of the outcome along with an updated copy of your report is provided. In case the dispute is found to be favorable to you, the creditor provides updated information to all three credit bureaus.
Ordering your free credit report also allows you to identify if you have been a victim of identity theft. In that unfortunate case, file a police complaint.

If your request for a free credit report is denied, contact the credit reporting agency (CRA). Often times, they require a missing information from you or rectification for an incorrect one on your application to provide you with a free credit report.

Getting your free credit report and knowing your score, is the first step towards building a good financial health.