Check Your Credit History Year-Round, For Free

Statistics show that 80% of credit histories have at least one error. Most of them are minor and inconsequential but some can have an adverse effect on your credit score, often costing your thousands on mortgages and car loans. I believe credit bureaus were so lackadaisical about accuracy because it forced consumers to buy their credit reporting services. You wouldn’t know there’s an error unless you paid Equifax for a copy of your report. Fortunately, federal law now makes it possible for us to police our own records and force bureaus to correct them, all on their dime. Here’s how:

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) lets you request a free copy of your credit report from each bureau every twelve months at AnnualCreditReport.com. It’s been mentioned numerous times before (along with all the scam sites looking to profit off it) but do you regularly check your credit history for errors?

I check my history every four months, rotating among the three bureaus, and one time I discovered the wackiest error of them all. I had an entire credit history, albeit a short one, linked to my own because the other person’s social security number was off by one digit (I had a 6, he had a 0). I had an extra address, a extra monthly landline phone bill, and a credit card I didn’t recognize (he had good credit though, paid off his credit card every month).

To get the data removed, I had to prove I didn’t live at that address during the period listed (I submitted two bank statements listing my actual address plus my cell phone bill for that period!) but it was eventually moved. When I asked the CSR how the heck they linked us, they said that “sometimes it happens.” That was the explanation.

It’s no wonder consumers find an estimated 13 million inaccuracies on their credit reports each year.

Jim writes the blog Blueprint for Financial Prosperity.