Learning About Credit Reports

Learn About Credit Reports

If you're serious about fighting identity theft, you need to learn about credit reports. The Federal Trade Commission says, "One of the best ways to catch identity theft is to regularly check your credit record."

Everything About Your Credit Gets Reported

Companies report every time you apply or are approved for credit. Have a cell phone? It's in your credit record. Test-drove a car last weekend and the salesman did a quick credit check? It's in your credit record. Got a second mortgage? It's in your credit record. This information is reported back to three major national credit bureaus; Equifax, Experian (used to be called TRW), and TransUnion.

When anyone applies for credit in your name, it will show up in your credit report. You just need to figure out where to get your credit report and how often to get it. Here's a summary:

Credit Report Comparison

  Free Report Single Report Merged Report
Cost Free, if you're smart $9.95 34.95
Pros -It's free
-Free credit score
-Free debt analysis
-Includes credit alerts
-Fairly inexpensive
Cons -Remember to cancel
-Only one bureau
-Only one bureau -Expensive
Details You get a free single credit report and are enrolled in a free trial of their credit monitoring service.

If you don't call the 800 number and cancel the service after 30 days, you are charged $79.95 for a year subscription to the service.

You get a fairly detailed listing of all your credit accounts, any legal judgments against you, and your payment history.

The source of the data is from ONE of the major credit bureaus -- TransUnion.

A complete view of your credit from all three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union).

The most comprehensive product out of the three, but it costs the most too.

Here's what to look for once you get your credit report:

In most cases, fraudulent activity can be detected by reviewing the accounts, inquiries and addresses that appear on a credit report. Review your report carefully for the following items:

Accounts: If you do not recognize an account and the account is newly opened, that may be an indication that a criminal has obtained a line of credit using your identity.

Inquiries: Review all the inquiries on your credit report in the section titled: "Requests viewed by others." This section contains inquiries from creditors that have accessed your credit report to process an application. If you do not recognize the credit grantor accessing your report, that may be an indication of fraudulent activity.

Addresses: Review the addresses appearing on your credit report. If you discover an address that you have not lived at, it may be an indication that the address was used on a fraudulent application for credit.

Here's everything that appears on a credit report:

  • Your name, current and previous addresses, phone number, Social Security number variations, date of birth and current and previous employers. Your spouse's name may appear on your version of the credit report but it will not appear on the version that is provided to others. This information comes from your credit applications, so its accuracy depends on your filling out the forms clearly, completely and consistently each time you apply for credit.
  • Specific information about each account such as the date opened, credit limit or loan amount, balance, monthly payment and payment pattern during the past several years. This information comes from companies that do business with you.
  • Federal district bankruptcy records and state and county court records of tax liens and monetary judgment can all be found in public records.
  • The names of those who have obtained a copy of your credit report. This information comes from the credit-reporting agency.
  • Statements of dispute, which allow both consumers and creditors to report the factual history of an account. Statements of dispute can only be added after a consumer officially disputes the status of an account, the account has been investigated, and the consumer and creditor cannot agree about the account status. Both the consumer and creditor's statements of the account status will appear on the credit report.

Your credit report does not contain data about race, religious preference, personal lifestyle, political preference, medical history, friends, criminal record or any other information unrelated to credit.

Learning About Credit Reports
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