Thursday, December 6, 2007

What your Credit Report can Reveal

Yesterday, I received a reminder from my MS Outlook calendar to request a credit report this month. The three credit agencies: Experian, Transunion and Equifax will each provide a free report every year, so by alternating between agencies you can get a report every four months.

What is in the credit report?
The format of the reports vary with the agency, but the information is generally the same. As an example, the Experian report provides the status of each credit card, loan and/or mortgage in your name. Detailed account information such as high balance, recent balance, date open/closed, credit limit and a balance history that can span a couple of years is listed.

The next section of the report lists the requests of all who have viewed your credit and the date of the request. You may not have initiated these requests, so you may not recognize some of these outfits. They might include:

  • other creditors who want to offer you pre-approved credit
  • an employer who wishes to extend an offer of employment
  • a potential investor in assessing the risk of a current obligation
  • credit reporting agencies to process a report for you
  • your existing creditors to monitor your credit activity

In addition, the report lists your personal information such as variations of your name, addresses going back ten or more years, types of residence, past and present employers, phone numbers, social security number and date of birth.

And finally, the last section of the Experian report includes a Summary of Your Rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Why pull your own credit?
You know your credit is good, you have never had a problem, so why check it?
It has become incredibly easy to get credit – very few questions are asked. Gone are the days when lenders actually reviewed your history and assessed your risk before handing you a blank check. And as a result, it has become increasingly easy for people to steal your credit.

Checking your report is the only way to verify your credit and to find a problem before it gets out of hand. Strange things can happen. Sure there is the typical Identity theft case, where someone uses your information to get a credit card. But there is also the possibility that someone grabs your SS# and uses it to qualify for a job. At first, you might think that is great since all of their SS earnings will correspond to your SS#, but it won’t be so great when the IRS wants you to pay taxes on their earnings! Imagine the bureaucratic nightmare trying to prove that you did not make this money, let alone pocket it.

Even if you have no reason to believe there is a problem, it is prudent to request a credit report just for the peace of mind. It doesn’t impact your credit rating and its free.

How do I get my credit report?
The safest way to request a free report is to go to the Federal website ( and follow the link to the annual credit report site. The report is provided on line and can be saved to a folder on your PC’s hard drive for future reference. You can also request a report via snail mail, if you prefer.

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