You weren't born with credit (good or bad); you had to work hard to establish credit on your own. Be sure you work just as hard to protect your credit. After all, your credit report affects more than just your financial life. It can affect your career, your education, and the interest rates that lenders offer you.
Although it's almost impossible to completely guard yourself against identity theft, there are some best practices that may help reduce the risk of loss.
The federal government requires that the three national credit-reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—must each give you a free credit report every year. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the only authorized online source for a free credit report is AnnualCreditReport.com.
You can order your reports from all three agencies at once or at different times simply by:
Now, examine your report. Click here for information that will help you understand your credit report.
When it comes to fixing or cleaning your credit report, don't believe the companies or individuals who claim that they can repair your credit for you. They can't.
If negative comments on your credit report are correct, they can remain in your file for up to seven years—except for bankruptcy, which can remain for up to 10 years. However, if you believe there are errors in your credit report, you must notify the credit bureau in writing. The bureau will follow up your request with your creditor. If the creditor agrees with you, your report will be changed.
Use our Helpful Tips (especially Credit Repair: How to Help Yourself) to get your credit back on track!