Protecting your Credit

credit report 3In these days of high alert for identity fraud, we think it is a smart financial plan to check on your credit report at least once a year. Federal law allows you to annually obtain free copies of your credit report from all three credit reporting agencies – Transunion, Equifax and Experian. If more copies in a year are needed, copies may be purchased individually or all 3 together. It may be a good strategy to stagger your requests throughout the year by ordering one report from a different agency every four months. This will help you track any fraudulent account applications or update any discrepancies that you find in your information. You can also elect to freeze your account with one or more of the credit agencies. This prevents anyone from obtaining credit in your name, including you! You can easily un-freeze your account, if applying for credit cards or mortgages, and then re-freeze it when you aren’t using it. It is a great extra safety measure.

There are several ways to obtain your reports and each of them will require a good deal of identity verification. The best way to order is by going online to www.annualcreditreport.com. You can request copies from all three agencies on this same site. You can also go to each credit bureau individually for other products, but they send you to the www.annualcreditreport.com site for your free report. It is important to thoroughly read each page and follow the directions. All three reporting bureaus require a slightly different process and you will follow those processes through one at a time.   You will need to provide your current name, address, date of birth and social security number. If you have lived at your current address less than 2 years, you will need your previous address also. All three reporting agencies also ask you to identify some specific accounts or loans that you have now or may have had in the past in order to authenticate your request. This can really test your memory banks, so if you have a previous credit report handy, it may help you!

Each of the three bureaus will give you your credit report that can and should be either printed or downloaded (or both) at that time. Equifax will let you create an account where you can view your report for up to 30 days. Each credit bureau also has a system for online disputes, if you find an error. Follow the directions within each page.

You may also contact each credit agency directly to request the copy of your report or register a dispute on items that appear in your report. They will require you to send a written authorization letter with copies of 2 forms of ID (SS card and Driver’s license). Each bureau may have slightly different requirements for this.   Please let us know if you find anything on your report that concerns you and DWM will be happy to help. Here’s how to contact the credit agencies directly:

Equifax Information Services                 Experian                                       Transunion

www.equifax.com                               www.experian.com                     www.transunion.com

(866) 229-7861                                    (888) 397-3742                            (800) 916-8800