Use your credit report to take control of your financial position

In a world of growing consumer concern of credit card fraud and the ease of sharing information with just one click of the mouse, it is more and more important to stay on top of your financial status. One way to monitor this is through your credit report. It is important to know your report so that your information stays up-to-date before you make a major purchase that requires a credit check as well as to help guard against identity theft. There are companies that provide free credit reports, but did you know that you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report upon request, every 12 months?

The three consumer reporting companies that provide these reports have set up a central website, address and phone number where you can contact them to submit your request. You are able to request one credit report from each company once every 12 months. You can visit them online at www.annualcreditreport.com (make sure you check the spelling – many impostor sites own misspelled versions of the website to trick you into using their sites), call them at 1-877-322-8228 or submit the form from www.ftc.gov/credit to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. When ordering it online, you should be able to view your report immediately. Otherwise you should receive it within 15 days of processing.

These are the only ways to contact the nationwide consumer reporting companies. Any other website offering free reports or monitoring is not part of the free credit report program and may have hidden strings attached to the offer. It is important to ensure that you are only on the secured website because once you are ready to request your annual report, you must submit your personal (and sensitive) information including your name, address, Social Security Number and birthday. It is recommended that you order a report from each of the companies, staggering your requests over the 12 month period so that you can monitor your credit more often.

If you operate a business and would like to check your credit score, it is recommended to obtain an EIN for your business, which can be used in place of your Social Security Number. This can be an important tactic to protect your personal social security number.

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