Earlier this week, various news outlets reported that an Oregon woman who discovered huge errors in her Equifax credit report was awarded over $18 million in damages after disputing the errors eight times over two years. According to the Oregonian, the woman’s credit report included an incorrect Social Security number and birth date on her credit report, leaving her susceptible to major damage to her credit history.
CBS News reports that 1-in-4 consumers have an error on their credit report, and that 1-in-20 errors cause damage to credit scores of up to 25 points. That number can make or break a person’s credit.
This woman’s story highlights the importance of regularly checking your credit report. You can get your credit report for free once a year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com. You can also get your credit score from the credit reporting bureaus for around $10.
Tips for monitoring your credit report:
- Stagger the reports. Pull your report from one of the credit reporting bureaus once every four months. For example, pull your Equifax report in January, TransUnion in May, and Experian in September. This will give you a good picture of your financial health throughout the year.
- Check the reports against each other. Compare the information provided by each credit reporting bureau. Not all creditors report their information to all three bureaus, so the information provided by each bureau will be different.
- Take the time to look for errors. Check the accuracy for all lines of credit that show up in your report. Scrutinize account numbers, payment histories, and balances.
- Make the call. If you notice an error, contact your creditors and the credit bureau to dispute the mistake. Be prepared to fill out paperwork to prove that the information is incorrect. Ask for replacement cards, new account numbers, and passwords for all your legitimate accounts to prevent identity thieves from further accessing your cash and credit. Also request that your credit report be flagged with a fraud alert, and ask that creditors contact you at your phone number to verify all future applications.
Call the fraud departments of the three major credit reporting agencies listed below.
For more information on surviving identity theft, click here.