Coronavirus makes credit monitoring more important
It is always important to stay on top of your credit score. What about during a major economic crisis? Doubly.
If you’re having trouble keeping track of your loan payments, watch your creditworthiness closely.
The big three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – all made free credit reports available on a weekly basis until April 2021.
The new access is a big change from the usual standard, once a year.
The new option means you can check your creditworthiness free of charge more than 50 times in the coming year.
How to get your free weekly credit reports
You can get free credit reports from the government mandated site annualcreditreport.com. This is the only truly free, unconditional credit report available to all American consumers.
In addition, each of the three major credit bureaus has created a special area to answer questions relating to coronaviruses. Here you can find links to each of their credit monitoring services.
Coronavirus and free credit reports
The coronavirus quickly went from a medical emergency to a major economic emergency. Millions of people have lost their jobs because of the virus. Businesses across the country have closed their doors.
As a result, traditional credit reporting standards have been changed.
For example, new rules that allowed homeowners to suspend mortgage payments also protect their credit by saying that missed mortgage payments cannot be reported as “late” or “missed.”
But what about all your other debts?
Not all sectors enjoy the same protections for consumers as mortgage loans. If you are at risk of missing a credit card, car loan, personal loan, or other debt repayments due to COVID-19, your credit score could be at serious risk.
Perhaps more than ever you need to check your credit reports to make sure they’re accurate. Access to these free weekly credit reports is a big help.
Credit report errors are real
Free credit reports are essential for every consumer. They give you the ability to check for factual errors, obsolete items, identity theft issues, and fraud.
Such problems can unfairly lower credit scores. And lower scores mean higher interest rates on homes, cars, credit cards, and other forms of borrowing.
So how does a credit report help? By showing you a detailed list of the factors that make up your score.
Believe it or not, credit reports often contain errors. Some are worse than others.
A government study found errors in as many as 5% of all credit reports, with an average credit score drop of 25 points.
A government study found credit report errors so severe that they reduced credit scores by over 100 points.
More often, the study found that errors were found in 5% of all credit reports and that the typical impact was a loss of 25 points.
This is a big deal because 25 points could be enough to take a person to a lower credit level where lenders charge higher borrowing costs.
If you have been financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, a deceptively low credit score will make it even more difficult to get your foot back on the other side of this crisis.
How to check for errors on your credit report
There are a number of potential issues to look for when checking your credit report.
The first thing to look for is precision. Make sure everything on your credit report is correct and that no one else’s credit problems have been accidentally attributed to you.
- Is your information reported? Make sure the report only reflects your own information. There can be a big difference between “John Jones” and “John J. Jones”
- Does the report show your correct address? What about past addresses?
- Is the social security number correct?
- Are there articles for unknown companies? If you live in Atlanta, did you really buy coffee in Milwaukee last week?
- How old is the information for each item?
You should also comb through your report for any misrepresented debt that could affect your score. For example:
- Closed accounts reported as open
- The same account listed more than once
- Fake accounts listed due to identity theft
- Accounts listed with incorrect balances or credit limits
- Accounts listed with incorrect open or close dates
- Missed payments that you actually paid
You can find a more complete list of what to look for in our article “Mistakes or Fraud: How do I remove derogatory items from my credit report?“
What if you find a problem?
Contact the credit bureau immediately. Request the information and documents they need to file a written dispute.
Credit bureaus typically have 30 days to respond to written disputes, but there is one big exception. Credit bureaus do not have to respond to those they consider frivolous.
So, don’t dispute a problematic account on your report if you know it’s correct.
How Long Do Credit Problems Last on Your Report?
Some items can stay on a credit report longer than others. The standards look like this, according to the Federal Trade Commission:
- A credit reporting company can report the most accurate negative information for seven years
- Bankruptcy information is 10 years old
- There is no time limit for reporting information about criminal convictions
- Information about an unpaid lawsuit or judgment against you may be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations expires or, whichever is longer.
- There is no time limit on the information you provide if you are applying for a job that earns more than $ 75,000 per year or if you have applied for more than $ 150,000 in credit or life insurance. .
Beware of fraudulent “credit report” services
Be careful! There are impostor sites that advertise themselves as “free credit report” services that will take your money and information.
Say it Federal Trade Commission (FTC):
- “Some ‘impostor’ sites use terms like ‘free report’ in their names;
- Others have URLs that intentionally misspell annualcreditreport.com in the hope that you will misspell the official site name.
- Some of these “impostors” sites direct you to other sites that are trying to sell you something or collect your personal information. “
There are also scammers who will claim to be affiliated with Annualcreditreport.com.
“If you receive an email, see a pop-up ad, or receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from annualcreditreport.com or one of the three national credit reporting companies… It’s probably a scam. ”
The FTC explains that “National credit reporting companies will not send you an email asking for your personal information.
“If you receive an email, see a pop-up ad, or receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from annualcreditreport.com or one of the three national credit reporting companies, do not respond or click no link in the message. It is probably a scam.
Free credit reports after April 2021
The free weekly credit reports should be available until April 2021. After that, you will still have free access to your credit report to watch for errors and red marks. You just won’t be able to see it that often.
Here’s how you can access your credit report outside of the temporary weekly reports created in response to the coronavirus:
- Government rules allow individuals to obtain a credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (CRAs). You can get your free reports at AnnualCreditReport.com
- Starting in 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states that “anyone in the United States can get 6 free credit reports per year through 2026 by visiting the Equifax website or by calling 1-866-349-5191. This is in addition to the free Equifax report (plus your Experian and TransUnion reports) which you can get at AnnualCreditReport.com“
- the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) says consumers are entitled to a free credit report under certain circumstances, but only if you ask for it. Special circumstances include:
- If someone has taken adverse action against you because of information on your credit report;
- Identity theft cases and the placement of a fraud alert in your file;
- If your file contains inaccurate information following fraud;
- If you benefit from public aid; or
- If you are unemployed but plan to apply for a job within 60 days
Even when the economy is stable and you’re not that concerned about your debt and income, it’s important to keep an eye on your credit.
It’s more common to find errors on a credit report than you might think, and these imperfections can jeopardize your reputation with banks, credit card lenders, and the like.
Remember: even a difference of a few points can put you in a different credit ‘level’, and those levels (‘poor, fair, good, excellent’) determine your borrowing costs and the types of loans you are receiving. are eligible.
Check your new rate (May 29, 2021)