One of the best ways to combat identity theft is through the consistent monitoring of your credit report. Over the years, your credit report was a closely-guarded secret of the 3 major credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax). You had to pay a fee to see your report and your rights were very limited as to what you could do about your report. However, Congress recognized several years ago that this did nothing but perpetuate identity theft and even hinder an individual’s ability to establish good credit. Today, you can request a credit report annually to monitor your history and ensure no one is establishing new accounts in your name or diverting old accounts to a different address. It’s also helpful in contesting negative information on your report, identifying open and unused accounts, and ensuring that your payment history is accurately reflected.
However, many are unaware that you can capitalize on this opportunity even further. As there are 3 credit reporting agencies, you can check all 3. I have found that what is on your credit report is closely mirrored on the other 2. To best protect your credit and identity, set up on your calendar to request a report from 1 of the 3 agencies every 4 months and rotate through each of the 3. In other words, request a report from Experian in January, a report from TransUnion in May, a report from Equifax in September, and repeat every year. This allows you to continuously monitor your credit for ANYTHING that might raise your suspicions. Now, to be clear, your credit report does NOT contain your credit score, that is a score based on a proprietary formula to which you are not automatically entitled, but really does not help you in protecting your identity or credit anyway.
There are also other situations in which you may formally request your credit report without cost to you:
- If you have been the victim of identity theft, you can request a report. You truly need to avail yourself of this opportunity if you are or suspect you have been the victim of identity theft. Be proactive in minimizing the damage!
- You’ve ever been denied a job, a loan, or any other opportunity or benefit because of what is on your credit report. This automatically qualifies you to review your credit report and contest any negative information.
- If you are unemployed and actively seeking employment within the next 60 days, you can request a copy of your credit report.
- If you file a fraud alert or credit freeze on your report. I’ll be talking more about these options in the coming weeks and how they benefit you. However, for this posting, just be aware that if you file either on your report, you are also entitled to a free credit report.
It is important to remember that these exceptions apply to all 3 of the credit-reporting agencies, so you can request the report from each one in these circumstances.
Good luck and BE PROACTIVE!!