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1) Spot Identity Theft
Getting your credit report is one of the best ways you can check if you have been a victim of identity theft. Unchecked identity theft can severely affect your credit. Would you want an identity thief to open a line of credit in your name, buy a TV, a computer, and whatever else, and in doing so smear your good name? Of course not.

When you check your credit report, make sure your name and address are correct and that every instance or account of credit is one that you authorized. An identity thief may have changed your address when they opened credit in your name so that you will never get the bill and find out about it. And if the identity thief did open a line of credit in your name, it would appear on your credit report. If you find information on your credit report that is not yours, contact the credit reporting companies directly and get that information off your report. Bad credit can be caused by fraudulent activity on your report that you do not correct.

2) Correct Inaccuracies
Sometimes incorrect information is not the product of identity theft. Although mistakes sometimes happen, correct them. A credit report might show that you paid your credit bill late three times when you only missed it once. Or your credit report might show that you owe debt that you do not really owe. If your credit report shows incorrect information, contact the credit reporting companies direct to correct it.

3) Know Your Credit History
Potential creditors look at your credit report, and so too do many potential employers, and potential landlords. Creditors often obtain your credit score, which generally represents how likely you are to make your payments on time. Credit scores are generated by inputting information from your credit report into a formula. There are many score formulas, so scores can vary. But they all input information from your credit report.

4) Plan For Your Future
We live in a credit society. Many of us obtain credit to buy a house, a car, an education, major appliances, and other major purchases. And of course many of us have a credit card or two or five. Your interest rate and other terms, and even the decision whether a creditor will lend you credit (or an employer will give you a job, or a landlord will sign the lease with you) depends on the information on your credit report. If others will look at your credit report, shouldn’t you know what is on it?

5) You Can Get It For Free
You can get your credit report free once per year from each of the three major credit reporting companies at www.annualcreditreport.com. If you are a victim of identity theft, get a second free copy by contacting the credit reporting companies.

Find contact information for the credit reporting companies and more information about managing credit and debt and identity theft on our website. Call our Consumer Information Hotline with questions: (617) 973-8787 or email us.

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