Get yours and contact a licensed accounting or fiduciary professional for assistance
Your credit can make or break your financial plans for the future. That’s why a federal law—the Fair Credit Reporting Act—now gives consumers the right to request free credit reports every 12 months so you can stay informed and address issues.
WHY DO CREDIT REPORTS MATTER?
When you make a payment on a loan or credit card, the business that gave you the loan or credit records how much and how often you pay, as well as the loan balances and credit limits. These businesses report your loan, credit, and payment history to one or more credit reporting companies, which then combine the information they receive about you into a credit report. Since not all businesses report information to the three major credit-reporting companies, the information on your credit reports may vary.
According to the Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States, credit reports are important for consumers to receive and understand because others can get and see your report to understand how you manage your financial responsibilities:
- Lenders may use your credit report information to decide whether you can get a loan and the terms you get for the loan, such as the interest rate they will charge you.
- Insurance companies may use the information to decide whether you can get insurance and what rates you’ll pay.
- Employers may use credit reports, if you give them permission to do so, to decide whether to hire you.
- Phone and utility companies may use information in your credit report to decide whether to provide you with services.
- Landlords may use information in your credit report to determine whether to rent or lease a home to you.
With these major decisions riding on your credit information, it’s key for consumers to be aware of what their reports reflect.
ORDERING REPORTS, ADDRESSING ISSUES
To order your free annual reports:
- Visit www.annualcreditreport.com and click on the “Request Yours Now” tab. Be aware of imposters: This highly secure website is the only site authorized by the federal government and the three major credit reporting companies under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
- Call (877) 322-8228.
- Complete the Annual Credit Report Request form and mail it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
Requesting your free reports via this federally required service will not hurt your credit score.
Once you receive your free reports, you will want to check them carefully to make sure they show the most up-to-date and correct information. Make sure that you recognize the information on your credit report, including your personally identifiable information like name, address, Social Security number, accounts, and loans. Then check that the other information on your credit report is accurate and complete.
If you find errors, you should contact the credit reporting company that sent you the report, and the business or company that provided the information (called the “furnisher” of the information). Your credit report will include directions on how to dispute wrong or incomplete information. The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers sample letters to businesses and credit reporting companies you can use to help correct credit report inaccuracies.
And if you need help addressing credit concerns or any other financial issues, consulting a licensed accounting or fiduciary professional is a smart investment. Licensees of the Department of Consumer Affairs’ California Board of Accountancy and Professional Fiduciaries Bureau are trained, educated, and dedicated to helping California consumers make the most of their money; check a professional’s license at https://search.dca.ca.gov.