Check Your Free Credit Report Campaign

Monitor Credit ScoresTake time to check your free credit report!

The UW-Extension website walks you through the only free report available. The information in your credit report can affect your life in many important ways.  It can influence your interest rate for credit cards and loans; affect your monthly insurance payments; your ability to get a mortgage or rent an apartment; and maybe even apply for for a job.

What’s in your credit report?  It is a detailed record of your credit activities from the past seven to ten years.  Because credit reports are used so often, federal law gives everyone the right to see a free copy of their report from each of the three major credit bureaus every 12 months.  By law, you can request three free credit reports each year from AnnualCreditReport.com – one each from the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

There are three ways to order your free credit report: through the mail, by calling toll free, or at the official website AnnualCreditReport.com. The University of Wisconsin-Extension makes ordering your free reports easy through its “Check Your Free Credit Report: 2/2, 6/6, 10/10” website.  Anyone can sign up to receive an email reminder three times a year on- 2/2, 6/6, 10/10 – on the campaign’s website at http://fyi.uwex.edu/creditreport.  The Richland County UW-Extension office recommends that you view one report every four months so you can be sure that the information is up-to-date and accurate.  Richland County Family Living Agent, Chelsea Wunnicke, spoke recently to Peggy Olive, UW-Extension/UW-Madison Financial Capability Specialist about the process of checking a credit report.

“For most individuals, ordering a free credit report online takes less than 5 minutes,” says Olive, “But if you’ve moved recently or had a name change, obtaining your free report will likely involve a few additional steps.”  When ordering a free report online, there are typically three security questions you’ll be asked to verify your identity.  These multiple-choice questions might ask about past residential addresses, names of lenders, or the amount of a car or home loan, for example.  After answering the questions, you will have access to your requested free report for viewing online or for printing to keep for your records.

If the free credit report request is not accepted, whether it’s online, through the mail, or over the phone, you might receive a message that, for your protection, the online report cannot be delivered.  “You may get this message when there is some type of disagreement between the information a consumer submits and the information in the credit bureau files,” says Olive. “If you answer one of the online security questions wrong – which has happened to me- you will also not be able to access your report,” explains Olive.  “You will need to follow up with a paper request form along with additional documentation.”

You will be instructed to print off a paper request form, available at AnnualCreditReport.com (or available at the Richland County Extension office at 1000 Hwy 14 W, Richland Center, WI 53581).  In addition, you will need copies of several items to verify your identification and address.  The items must include your Social Security number and your current home mailing address.  It is helpful to enlarge photocopies of any items that contain small print (driver’s license, W2 forms, etc.) to avoid delays.  Also, do not highlight or write on any of the copies mailed to the credit bureau. “Sending in additional paperwork can be annoying, but it’s also worth it,” says Olive.  “Sometimes wrong information is a simple data entry error, and other times, it could be a sign of fraud.”

The UW-Extension “2/2, 6/6, 10/10” website provides additional information and website links for ordering and reading the free reports.  If you suspect wrong information on your credit report could be a result of fraud, the campaign’s website at http://fyi.uwex.edu/creditreport has information on security freezes, fraud alerts and identity theft, along with a sample dispute letter.

The University of Wisconsin – Extension prepared a brief with more information on free credit reports.   Please click Credit-reports-2_6_10_Updated-2014-Final to read more.

For more information on credit reports and personal finance, contact Chelsea Wunnicke, Richland County UW-Extension Family Living Agent at 608-647-6148.