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Tip #24: Look out where you get your credit report - and what it contains.

You can get your credit score from any number of resources.  One place you can get it from is from credit bureaus themselves.  You can pay for the service, but you qualify for one free credit report a year or qualify for a free credit report if you have recently been turned down for credit or if you think you may have been the victim of identity theft.

 

If you can, get a copy of your free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus.  If you can’t get a free credit report, you should still try to get one, even if costs a few dollars.  The savings you will enjoy on your loan rates when you improve your credit score will more than pay for the cost of the reports.

 

There are a number of online companies that offer free online credit reports.  These offers are very attractive because you get an online report without having to wait for a report to be sent to you, and you often can get several reports from the different credit bureaus at once, which can save you time.

 

However, these online companies vary widely, so you will want to compare a few different firms before choosing one.  You will also need to read the online company’s agreement very carefully - some promise free credit reports only with the purchase of a credit repair program or some other kit.  In some cases, you can decline the offer and still get the report but in other cases you cannot. 

Buyer beware.

 

Also, some companies will offer you free credit reports that are really a combination of reports from the three major credit bureaus.  This is not useful, since you will want to compare each of the three credit bureau reports and fix each credit score separately.  You will want to look out for online companies that offer credit reports that are very condensed and you will want to avoid companies that will spam you (send you unsolicited emails) trying to get you to subscribe to some service.  Always read carefully to see whether the free credit report offer is legitimate.

 

That said, there are a number of online companies that offer credit reports and credit scores at no charge and these can be a useful way for you to start your credit repair, especially if you are comfortable around computers. 

 

If you don’t qualify for a free credit report from the credit bureaus, a legitimate online company may be your best bet of getting your credit information so that you can start repairing your credit risk rating.   

 

You do qualify for one free credit report per year.  You can get this credit report through email at www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877_322_8228. 

 

You can also ask for your free credit report by mail by sending a letter to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348_5281 or by filling out this form available at the Federal Trade Commission's Web site.

 

No matter where you get your credit score and credit report, make sure that you get the most complete information package you can. Credit reports are not very exciting or even easy to read.  If you are ordering your report online, look for one that includes graphs or lots of details that are easy to understand. 

 

Make sure that you get both your credit report and your credit score - even if you have to pay extra.  If you get just your report, you will not be able to follow the secret and complicated math formulas used to arrive at your score and the report itself will not make as much financial sense to you if you don’t have your score in front of you, as well.

 

When you do get your credit report you will notice that it contains lots if information about you, including:

 

1) Your personal and contact information.  This will include your name and your address, as well as your past several addresses, your social insurance number, your employers (past and present) and your birth date.

 

2) Your personal information about credit.  A credit report notes all the details of your loans, including the types of loans you have now and have recently had, the dates these loans were opened, the credit limit on each loan, how well you have been repaying those loans (this is important - skipped or late payments count heavily against you in your credit score), and who your lenders are.

 

3) Information about you that is on the public record.  This may include bankruptcies, unpaid taxes, unpaid child support, tax liens, your dealings with collection agencies, foreclosures, loan defaults, civil lawsuits that you have been involved in, and other information.  Much of this will stay on your credit report and will seriously affect your credit score.

 

4) Information about who has looked at your credit report and credit score.  Every time that someone looks at your credit score it is called an “inquiry.”  Your credit report lists who has looked at your credit report in the past two years and how often you have applied for loans and credit in that period of time.  Too many inquiries tends to look bad and tends to affect your credit score.

When you get your credit report, it is important that you look at all parts of your credit report and understand what you are reading.  Mistakes in any area of your credit report can affect your score, so be sure to check the entire report for inaccuracies and errors.

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