Credit Report 101

By now I think it is common knowledge that every American is entitled to one free credit report a year, from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. The three agencies are Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. They are required to share information with one another so it doesn’t really matter much which agency you choose first. Ideally you will get reports from all three over the course of a year, one every four months or so.

The absolute best way to access your free report is by going to ANNUALCREDITREPORT.COM. It is very important to get that address correct. There are other, look-alike sites that will charge you a monthly monitoring fee in exchange for viewing your report. This isn’t necessary.

It is estimated that at least 70% of credit reports contain some type of error. And correcting those errors is neither fun nor easy. The first step is (rather obviously) detecting the error. Next, you need to draft a letter explaining why it is in error, provide documentation and enclose a copy of the report. Send it certified mail to the address of the agency (all are listed at the end of this post). Try to overcome your sense of frustration and be sure to act businesslike in all communications with the reporting agency. Detail all of the steps you take in the process to correct the record. Write down who you talked to, when you spoke to them and what they told you.

One thing…before you assume that an unusual item on your credit report is fraudulent- check with your spouse! There are times when you may not be aware that your wife has a Macy’s card or your husband opened a Lowes credit account. It’s always best to look close to home before doing batter with a credit reporting agency…

Now, go to this site and get your free credit report if you haven’t already do so. And if you have any errors, use the information below to fix things. Be patient¦and good luck!

Speaking of talking to representatives, try these tips to talk to a human representative rather than a computer.

For TransUnion: 800-916-8800 (Press 2 at each prompt, ignoring messages.)

For Equifax: 866-640-2273 (Press 30 at each prompt, ignoring message.)

For Experian: 800-493-1058 (Say “yes”; enter report #; enter social security #; say “yes”; say “agent” then “yes” to confirm at prompts thereafter.)

And the addresses are:

TransUnion LLC
Consumer Disclosure Center
PO Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022

Equifax Credit Information Services, INC
PO Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374

Experian
National Consumer Assistance Center
PO Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013

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