Why you need to check your credit report every year

As a consumer, your credit score should be very important to you. Not only does it determine your borrowing power, it also holds sway over many other areas of your life — but what if your credit score is wrong?

Perhaps you’ve heard the adage, “No one’s perfect.” Well, that also applies to the many models that determine your credit score.

Here’s why you need to check your credit report annually

In fact, one of the most frequent complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is regarding errors on peoples' credit reports.

It’s very easy to check your credit report. By law, you are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies once every 12 months.

Because mistakes happen fairly frequently, you should get your credit report every year.

Here are 5 ways you can get your credit reports

Here’s how to get your free credit report from the following main credit bureaus:

You can also get your credit report by filling out this Federal Trade Commission form.

What to do if you find errors on your credit report

It’s no wonder people are complaining: Incorrect credit scores could be costing you thousands of dollars in interest rates. They can also affect everything from your insurance policies to whether you can rent an apartment.

If you find an error on your credit report, you need to dispute it with the credit bureau and the business that reported the information.

You’ll have to reach out to the business directly. Here’s how to contact each major credit bureau:

How to file a dispute with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion

Credit Bureau Online By phone By mail
How to freeze your credit with Equifax Fill out: Equifax dispute form 1- 866-349-5191 Equifax
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
Fill out: Experian dispute form Experian does not accept disputes via phone Experian
P.O. Box 9701
Allen, TX 75013
How to freeze your credit with TransUnion  Fill out: TransUnion dispute form 1-800-916-8800 TransUnion
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016

Note: Experian now only accepts online submissions for disputes.

The credit bureaus will let you submit supporting documents online. If disputing by phone, the representative will tell you what they need and how to get it to them.

Remember: Keep your original documents. Only submit copies to the credit bureaus.

After you’ve submitted your dispute, the credit agency will notify you in writing that they have received it. If changes are made to your credit report, you will receive a free report in the mail, according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

What if your dispute is not resolved to your satisfaction?

In many cases, disputes may not be handled the way you want them to be. Here are some options that consumers have:

  • File a complaint online with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You can call them at 855-411-2372.
  • To escalate the situation, contact your state Attorney General.

One way to control what happens on your credit report is to freeze your credit. Money expert Clark Howard is such a big proponent of it that he has a Credit Freeze Guide to walk you though the process.

I f you have more questions about credit reports or freezing your credit, contact Clark’s Consumer Action Center — a FREE help line open Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m.–7 p.m. ET and Friday from 10 a.m –4 p.m. ET with volunteers available to answer YOUR concerns! Call Team Clark @ 404-892-8227.

More credit and identity protection resources:

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