A client received a strange letter in the mail this past week. It was from a bank (with which they have no relationship) stating that her husband’s auto loan had been approved. She wisely did not want to contact the number listed on the letter. She reached out to the bank directly (via the number published on their website) but also wanted to check her credit report to see if anything was amiss. She asked me a good resource to pull your own credit and I had just the place!
Pulling your own credit and reviewing it for accuracy (at least annually, preferably a few times of year) is a best practice. Read on to learn which website I recommend and how it works.
Website and process
There are many websites and services that offer up your credit report. However, given the sensitive nature of this process, you want to be sure to work with a reputable tool . This website, annualcreditreport.com, is authorized by US Federal Law and is the one I personally use. It will provide you with a credit report for free once per year from each of the three main credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). You can either get an aggregate report from all three at once (one aggregate report once per year) or spread them out (getting one report from one bureau at a time, allowing you three separate reports per year). Note: the header on the website implies that due to COVID, you can access a report weekly (versus annually). I do not know how long this will last but for now, it appears access it readily available
You will need to enter personal information and complete identity verification. Due to the sensitive nature of the information being shared, I suggest you use a secure internet connection and your own device to complete this request.
You will receive a credit report – not a credit score. It will list your various types of credit – revolving loans (like credit cards), mortgages, installment loans (like auto loans) and any other debt. It will show payment history, credit limits, and other credit-related information (such as inquiries, public records, and bankruptcies). Depending on your length of credit, your report may be 50+ pages. However, within a few minutes, you can do a thorough review and check for any inaccuracies.
Please pay attention to whether or not the report downloads to your computer. Recently I pulled mine and printed it out for review. Prompting the file to be printed triggered the file to be downloaded onto my computer. Given the personal information in the file, I chose to delete the download (and again from my deleted items). If you choose to save the electronic file, ensure you keep your computer or cloud account very secure!
Personally, I make it a habit to pull this report twice a year (at least). I give it a review and look for anything out of the ordinary. I also leverage the credit monitoring services provided by my two credit card companies (Chase and Am Ex). Those services watch for changes month-to-month, as well as give you an aggregate score, and send emails if any major changes occur. This allows me to monitor for any big movements and if anything did come up via those tools, I could then pull my full report. This is simply how I choose to manage this process for myself. You need to find the cadence and tools that meet your needs.
Another tactic you may with to consider is a credit freeze. I personally did this several years ago after the Equifax breech. Essentially, it locks your credit so if anyone goes to apply under it, it will send a notice back that it is frozen (inaccessible). If you need to make use to your own credit for any reason, you simply ask the lender what service(s) they pull from and request a temporary lift for a day or two – and then refreeze. I don’t know if anything is foolproof to secure your credit and identity, but I certainly feel more secure having all my credit frozen.
Hope this proves helpful in monitoring your credit. While we’re on the subject, I think it may be helpful to recap the main components of a credit score. I’ll be back next week to share some thoughts on that topic.
Leave a note