Today’s topic most certainly falls under the category of “things I know I should do, but I never feel like getting around to.” Although this simple practice will help protect you from excessive damage from identity theft and is a habit of the financially responsible, all too often we’re apt to neglect checking our credit report. But, with the information you’ll get below, you’ll find that this financial discipline is actually very easy, free, and will give you confidence in your financial health.
Big Brother’s Watching
If you’ve never seen your credit report before, get ready to be surprised at all the information about you that’s floating out there in cyberspace! It addition to every credit account you’ve ever opened (many you’ve probably forgotten about), your credit report will show you previous addresses, phone numbers, and lots of other data that other parties collect about you.
Free is Good
There are three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can access your credit report once per year from each agency for free by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. I checked mine earlier today, and from the moment I arrived at the site to the moment I printed my report was less than five minutes.
Watch for Posers
When looking over your report, note any activity that looks unfamiliar or suspicious. If someone took out a loan or opened a credit card fraudulently in your name, it should show up on your report. Take action to resolve these issues right away if they exist, as they’ll only get worse with time. You may also want to close any inactive accounts that show a zero balance, as these can be easy openings for future identity theft.
Take a moment to download your report from one of the three bureaus today, and then set a calendar reminder four months from now to remind yourself to check another bureau then. With this rotation you’ll get a copy of your report three times per year for free—and at a time cost of less than five minutes, we are all without excuse for knowing our financial health!