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The three national credit bureaus announced on September 23 that they would extend free weekly access to credit reports through December 2023.
Consumers’ free access to each of their three credit reports—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion—was set to expire at the end of the year.
In a joint announcementCEOs from all three offices said their decision to extend the program is a response to cost-of-living inflation and the lingering impact of the pandemic.
“Credit reports play an important role in financial health, and providing free weekly reports to consumers is another way to support the financial education and stability of people across the United States during this critical time,” says the announcement.
Why is access to credit important?
Credit reports have an impact on financial opportunities.
These reports do not display a credit score, but provide a history of your financial activities, including payment history and credit card, mortgage, and loan balances.
The information in your credit report can determine whether you are approved for loans and credit cards, how much you pay to borrow money, your car insurance premiums, your ability to find an apartment, whether you are eligible for certain jobs and more.
But before April 2020 – when credit bureaus expanded access to reports to help consumers track the status of their financial accounts amid Covid-19 – consumers could only view their free credit reports. once a year per office, for a total of three free reports.
Continued increased access means consumers will have more control over their financial well-being.
“This not only helps consumers monitor their financial health, but also helps early detect identity theft or fraud,” said a spokesperson for the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA), the trade association for companies. consumer credit scoring, in a statement sent to Forbes. Advise.
“It can also help identify any data that may have been provided inaccurately and ensure that on-time payments are flagged,” the spokesperson said.
Reviewing your reports is key to detecting and correcting incorrect information, which is a growing problem for consumers.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which collects and investigates consumer complaints, consumers submit more complaints about errors in credit reports than any other issue.
That’s one of the reasons the nonprofit publication Consumer Reports is advocating for even greater access to credit reports. In a month of September letter to the three credit bureaus, Consumer Reports asked for permanent free access and for the bureaus to improve the accuracy of their reports. Consumer Reports also circulated a petition requesting permanent and unlimited access to credit reports, which had approximately 38,000 signatures as of September 23.
“Extending free weekly access to credit reports for another year is a positive step, but credit reports should be made free permanently,” Syed Ejaz, policy analyst for Consumer Reports, said in a statement. “There is no good reason consumers should be charged for accessing their own financial data. Consumers should be able to view their credit report free of charge whenever they want so they can easily check for credit-damaging errors.”
How to Get and Use Your Free Credit Reports
You can withdraw your free credit reports by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com, which is the only federally authorized website that publishes free FCRA reports. You can also call 877-322-8228 and receive reports by mail.
Each of your credit reports may contain different information, so it’s important to review all three for the following:
Understand your credit profile
Your credit reports are a picture of your credit health. They can show you what you’re doing right and what needs fixing.
If you want to make improvements, these actions can help improve your credit health and boost your credit scores:
- Make on-time payments on your credit cards and loans
- Reduce your credit card balance
- Minimize credit and loan applications
- Avoid collection debts by staying on top of your rent, utility bills and other expenses
Correct the mistakes
Some credit report errors are common and harmless, such as a slightly incorrect residential address or a misspelled middle name. CDIA said these types of clerical errors do not affect a consumer’s credit score. But the following will need to be fixed:
- Your current name is not reflected
- A family member’s name appears on your report
- Your date of birth is incorrect
- A payment is incorrectly marked as overdue
- A collection account on the report does not belong to you
- An account is incorrectly flagged as overdue
You have the right to challenge credit report errors and have them removed. Filing a dispute is free and can be done online in minutes.
To do this, contact the credit bureau using the dispute instructions provided in your report. Once you file your case, the credit bureau usually has 30 days to investigate and an additional five days to send their response.
Note that your dispute is more likely to succeed if you provide proof, such as a receipt for a debt you paid.
You’re also more likely to succeed if you submit it yourself, rather than going the popular route of hiring a credit repair company.
“Unfortunately, some credit repair companies defraud consumers by falsely promising that they can dispute and remove negative information from their credit reports, even if the information is accurate,” the IDDC spokesperson said. .
Spot the signs of fraud
The following items on your credit report can be red flags for identity theft or credit card fraud, and require immediate action:
- Names you don’t recognize and have never used
- A wrong social security number
- Accounts that don’t belong to you
- An account balance greater than any balance you have accumulated in the last few months
- Difficult inquiries or account inquiries you did not apply for
There are many steps involved in recovering from identity theft, but you’ll want to start by contacting the relevant credit bureau to immediately place a fraud alert on your credit file.
Where else can you get free credit information?
AnnualCreditReport.com is the only reliable source for comprehensive credit reports, but you may have additional access to your credit information and scores elsewhere. Just be sure to go through an agency you trust, as fake credit report websites are a common scam. Here are some options:
- Occasional credit drawdowns. You have the right to withdraw a free credit report if you placed a fraud alert on the report or if you were denied credit or insurance within the past 60 days.
- Your bank or credit card account. Some banks and credit cards offer free credit score monitoring and may give you access to information from one or more of your credit reports.
- Credit monitoring services. A credit monitoring service like Credit Karma may give you access to VantageScore credit scores or select information from your credit reports, but you may encounter advertisements presented as personalized recommendations for financial products.