Credit is one of those things that everyone has to deal with eventually, whether or not you like it or not. As a responsible adult, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your credit score, and one of the ways to do that is through free credit reports. Under federal law, you can get one free credit report every 12 months from the three major credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Because of the current global economic problems, the three bureaus decided to provide a free report for those who want it once a week until April 2022. Why is this good news? It can be tricky to know what sites and reports to trust these days, so instead of searching “how to get real credit report free” and weeding through all of the ads, we’ve done the work for you. Keep reading to find out how to pull all your credit reports for free — and why you should.
If you’re feeling anxious about your finances during these uncertain times, you are definitely not the only one. Over the past year and a half, many people have experienced changes in employment and finances through no fault of their own. Since credit is super important and follows you throughout your entire life, it’s no wonder this recent uncertainty has many people uneasy about their futures. One way to ease these worries is to face the report head-on and control the elements you can.
Don’t use a search engine to find just any free credit report — you don’t know where that will lead you. Since pulling credit involves providing your most sensitive information to the company that will run the report, it’s imperative you trust the source. The only way to ensure a safe credit report transaction is to go to annualcreditreport.com. Once there, you can request a report from all three major credit-reporting agencies.
Each of the three reports is different, and while there could be problems with one of them, the other two may be just fine. Here are the things you should look for and proactive steps you can take:
Look for signs of identity theft
An unfortunate truth of times of economic hardship is that desperate times call for desperate measures. Though credit card and identity theft schemes were prevalent before the global marketplace changed, they are even more frequent now. For this reason, it is crucial to look for activity that looks unfamiliar to you. If you find accounts that you didn’t open or collection notices you never received, you may be a victim of identity theft. If you think you are a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center immediately for help.
Contact the companies you owe money to
Whether you’re aware of all your debts or not, you have to pay them off eventually. While reviewing your credit reports, make a note of the companies you owe money to and haven’t been paying. If you contact them and make an attempt to pay, many of them will work with you. This is an essential step toward improving your credit. Your account will likely change from a delinquent status to a positive, current status once you set up a payment plan or reach a settlement agreement. Some companies offer temporary forbearance periods during times of financial hardships. Not all companies will negotiate debts, but it is worth a shot, and you will definitely feel better knowing the debt is being taken care of, no matter how long it takes to pay off.
Pull and review reports often
Now that you can pull your reports weekly, you can keep an excellent eye on your credit. This is a good thing, especially if you’ve recently set up payment arrangements or temporary forbearance. The CARES Act typically requires that your creditors report these accounts as current, so you need to make sure your efforts are paying off properly. If you do find mistakes on your credit reports, report them immediately to the reporting agency. To find out more about errors and mistakes on credit reports, go to the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information page and read Disputing Errors on Credit Reports.
We’re living in uncertain times — job uncertainty, economic uncertainty, housing uncertainty, etc. All that uncertainty can make for anxiety and an overall gloomy outlook if you let it. One way to combat the uncertainty blues is by taking control of the few things that you can. While you’re not completely in control of your credit, you can monitor it to ensure that things are reported correctly and that no one is affecting your credit but you. Taking control of your credit feels good, trust us, you’ll rest easier knowing what you’re dealing with.