Resolution #4: Check Your Stats

By Lauren Sharkey

In 1957, my grandfather threw his radio through the kitchen window – the Yankees lost to the Milwaukee Braves and my grandfather was nothing but a dedicated fan trying to figure out how to cope with the loss.  When I was younger, he and I would sit on the porch, talking baseball, for hours.  He would show me the baseball cards of his favorite players and tell me how it’s not the picture that counts – it’s the information on the back that tells you who the player really is.  The same is true of people – while we don’t have a bunch of information attached to our backs, a credit report is the human equivalent of a baseball card.

Banks, credit lenders, and even employers will use your credit report to find out who you are.  Each institution has its own reasons for requesting a copy of your credit report.  Banks and lenders use your credit report to assess whether or not you are a risk for a loan and also use it to calculate interest rates for loans and lines of credit.  Employers can tell if you’re reliable, responsible, and trustworthy based on the information they find in your credit report.

That is why the beginning of the year is the perfect time to review your baseball card, and pull your credit report.  The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) states that all U.S. consumers be able to obtain a free credit report annually from each of the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.  To obtain your free credit report, click here.  The site to use is https://www.annualcreditreport.com to obtain your free credit report.  If you use another site, contact the bureaus directly, or get lost in the shuffle, you could wind up paying for your report.

When you go to Annual Credit Report, you will be asked to authenticate your identity by answering a series of questions.  In addition, you will be asked which reports you would like to view.  You can select one, two, or three reports – this means that you can choose to view one credit report from one bureau, one report from two different bureaus, etc.  Now, remember that you are entitled to one free report from each of the three agencies per year.  If you want, you can choose all three at once, or you can request one report from each agency every four months – the choice is yours.  However, spreading out how often you view your credit report has its advantages – such as being able to see the changes in your credit report over a period of time.

The information included on your credit report ranges from personal information (name, address, social security number, etc.) to lines of credit (both open and closed) and credit inquiries – a list of individuals or institutions who have accessed your credit report in the past two years.  Additionally, if you have been sent to collections for being delinquent, bankruptcy filings, foreclosures, suits, or other liens, that will also appear on your credit report.  Furthermore, this negative can stay on your credit report for up to seven years after they’ve been paid off, so  it’s best to avoid having this go on your report in the first place.

After pulling your credit report, it is important to carefully review each and every detail.  If there are discrepancies, contact the credit bureau immediately.  Regularly pulling your credit report is also a great way to see if someone has stolen your identity and opened lines of credit or taken out loans in your name.  It is essential that you report any disparities in your credit report as soon as possible – the process of getting your identity back and your credit report corrected is long, difficult, and stressful.

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Pulling your credit report is a great way to figure out where you stand – after all, how can you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you are?  Looking at your credit report will allow you to get a better grip on your finances, rework your goals (if necessary), and reach financial stability.

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