Take a look at your credit report regularlyDo you know what your credit score is? Have you taken a look at your credit record lately?
By: By Joe Harrison, Superior Telegram
Do you know what your credit score is? Have you taken a look at your credit record lately?
If you answered no to either of these questions, it’s time to find out.
A recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) study found one-in-five consumers has an error in their credit report and as many as five percent of consumers have identified errors in their reports. That’s a reason for all of us to be concerned.
Wrong information, and a low credit score, can cost you money through higher interest rates on mortgages, auto loans and other financial products. It can also result in you being turned down for a loan or credit. The three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — have no way of knowing if the information is wrong unless someone tells them. So, it’s up to consumers to make sure their records are factual; which means you shouldn’t wait until you need a loan or a new credit card to review the information.
You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report each year from each of the three credit bureaus. Each bureau reports things a little differently so it is likely your credit score and information may vary among agencies.
You can access your credit reports by going to www.annualcreditreport.com. Don’t be fooled by the many services purporting to provide free reports because generally they are subscription services or they’ll give you one report for free and charge for the rest.
Also, don’t think because your credit or score was good last year, it will be the same this year. Unless you check, you won’t know what information was added to your record during the past year.
If you find an error in your report, you can contact the reporting agency and provide information relating to the error. The agency has 15 days to respond to your complaint with a plan for fixing the problem. If you do not agree with that plan, you can dispute that response.
Keep in mind, your dispute needs to be factual. If you owed money in the past and you repeatedly didn’t pay on time, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get that changed.
If your credit record is in rough shape, contact your local banker and work with them on getting your credit cleaned up. A plan of action, including a developing a budget and a focus on doing what’s needed to improve your credit, is well worth the effort.
In the meantime, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is working on writing and enforcing rules for the credit reporting industry. This is something that wasn’t done in the past. The CFPB and FTC hope it will make the credit bureaus more responsive to consumer issues and inaccuracies.
In the meantime, it’s up to you to make sure your report is accurate.
Joe Harrison is the Superior branch manager of Citizen’s Bank, which offers diversified financial services.