Protecting Your Credit
Generally, your credit report and score are a determining factor in your ability to be approved for credit as well as the “cost” of that credit to you. Protecting your good credit history is important to you and you have the right to obtain three FREE credit reports per year, one from each reporting bureau.
VISIT www.annualcreditreport.com or call (877) 322 8228 and follow the instructions.
Once you have your report you can VERIFY:
THE TIMELINESS OF PAYMENTS – if late payments are listed on the report, and your records indicate that you have paid your bills on time, you need to contact the reporting agency immediately to correct the error.
VERIFY ALL ACCOUNTS – be certain that all accounts listed are yours. Again, contact the reporting agency immediately if you find a discrepancy because identity thieves often establish accounts using your stolen information and give false addresses to the creditor to keep you from finding out.
UNUSED OR DORMANT ACCOUNTS – can affect your credit score because they may have outstanding lines of credit that you don’t intend to use. You might want to consider closing the accounts if you really believe you won’t be using them again.
YOUR CREDIT SCORE – is most affected by HOW MUCH YOU OWE and YOUR PAYMENT HISTORY. A history of LATE PAYMENTS, a past BANKRUPTCY, COLLECTIONS, or COURT JUDGEMENTS will negatively affect your credit score. A high level of debt relative to your income will also lower your scores.
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CREDIT SCORES, REPORT ERRORS IN YOUR CREDIT REPORT OR TO REPORT IDENTITY THEFT VISIT:
www.equifax.com or call (800) 685-1111
www.experian.com or call (800) 397-3742
www.transunion.com or call (800) 888-4213
NATIONAL FRAUD ALERT SYSTEM – if you reasonably suspect you may be a victim of identity theft, or you are a member of the military on active duty away from home, you can place an alert on your credit files. The alert will put potential creditors on notice that you may be an identity theft victim and to proceed with caution when granting credit. Please contact the credit reporting agencies listed above to PLACE AN ALERT ON YOUR CREDIT FILE.
BLOCK YOUR CREDIT REPORTS TO PREVENT ID THEFT – one of the newest weapons against identity theft is to LOCK UP YOUR CREDIT REPORTS. The lock is called a SECURITY FREEZE. This request tells the credit reporting agencies that you want to block access to your credit report and credit score. With this freeze in place, credit reporting agencies are prevented from giving your file to all credit grantors unless you give specific permission. To get ANY new credit you would have to lift this ban temporarily. Remember, before requesting a SECURITY FREEZE, that there could be a cost to you if you place the freeze and then ask to lift it UNLESS you have already been a victim of Identity Theft. Consumer reporting agencies generally charge $10 to temporarily lift the freeze or remove it permanently. You can find instructions on how to REQUEST A FREEZE on each of the credit reporting agencies’ web sites or by calling the numbers listed above. Keep in mind that for the freeze to be effective you would need to establish one with each agency.