Goal: Review information that is used to impact your financial life
It’s important in today’s environment of information freedom that you monitor and protect your identity. There are numerous credit reporting agencies that collect information about all aspects of your life. The most well known are the credit information bureaus, however, there are many others that monitor your medical history, insurance claims, rental history, utilities, gaming, employment history and more.
How do I monitor my identity?
You’ll want to start with credit reports. Credit reports are compiled by credit reporting agencies, which are companies that collect information about where you live and work, how you pay your bills, and whether or not you have been sued, arrested, or have filed for bankruptcy. These companies sell your credit report to creditors, employers, insurers, and others. These companies will use these reports to make decisions about extending credit, jobs, and insurance policies to you.
How do I order my credit reports?
You are entitled to order a free copy of your credit report from each of the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) every 12 months at www.annualcreditreport.com (or by calling (877) 322-8228). This website is the only one that is government authorized to provide you with free copies of your credit report. Beware: There are many sites with similar URLs that will either attempt to charge you or steal your personal information.
How do I look at my credit report?
When you receive the reports, review them to ensure they are accurate and to spot any unauthorized activity. Use the Get Ready Credit Report Monitoring Worksheet which will guide you through your credit report (see next steps below). You’ll also want to make sure that all accounts and other information listed for you on these reports is accurate and complete. Be sure to also review account status reporting, as status and dates can be incorrect, or debts can be listed twice.
How do I fix errors on my credit report?
Contact the credit agencies directly through their website, if you need to dispute information in your report, place a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit file. If you have a dispute, explain what you think is wrong and why, along with any documentation to support your case:
- Equifax (www.equifax.com or (866) 349-5191)
- Experian (www.experian.com or (888) 397-3742)
- TransUnion (www.transunion.com or (800) 916-8800
Go Deeper: Order Consumer Reports
There are many specialty consumer-reporting companies that collect and share information about your employment history, transaction history with a business, or your repayment history for a specific product or service. Here are four reports that you should consider requesting each year:
- LexisNexis. They compile information such as real estate transactions and ownership data; lien, judgment, and bankruptcy records; professional license information; and historical addresses. Request your report (here).
- C.L.U.E. Report. This includes information on insurance claims histories for auto insurance and homeowners insurance. Request your report (here).
- Medical Information Bureau (MIB). MIB records contain coded information identifying any medical conditions or medical tests reported by other MIB members for anyone who has applied for individual life insurance, disability insurance or health insurance in the the last seven years. It does not have actual “reports” or “medical records” on file. Request your report (here).
- The Work Number. This report compiles employment and income information. It is used by lenders, property managers, pre-employment screeners, social service agencies, and others who need to verify someone’s employment status and sometimes his or her income as well. Request your report (here).
Access the Get Ready Toolkit and download the Credit Report Monitoring Worksheet (here).
The Get Ready Toolkit also includes a subscription to the Get Ready Newsletter which follows the Get Ready Financial Calendar to help you stay financially prepared.
Pick up a copy of Get Ready: A Step-By-Step Planner for Maintaining Your Financial First Aid kit to guide you through organizing your financial documents and creating your cash flow statement and net worth statement. Pick up a copy on Amazon (here), purchase a digital copy (here) or learn more (here).