WASHINGTON, July 13, 2015 – When checking on or looking to improve your credit image, the first thing you need to know is that there are three main credit-reporting firms that hold much of your credit fate in their hands. They are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
(Reminder: your credit report is not the same as your credit score. Your report is a listing of the tests and quizzes you took that make up your grade.)
By law, you have the right to check the contents of your credit report at each of the three above-mentioned firms once a year. Each firm’s report is laid out differently and contains enough varying instructions and information that your task can quickly become annoying and confusing if you review all three reports at once. It’s like dealing with three different, difficult professors at one time.
For each professor (umm, company), take four months to follow actions outlined below. Start now. Here’s how:
First, schedule your credit report requests on your calendar. Then make the requests one at a time as you’ve scheduled them.
There’s a reason for this. When the public reporting system was first set up, getting hold of your credit reports wasn’t too hard. Unfortunately, the process seems to be getting a little more complicated every time we look.
Here’s how it went for me the last time I checked:
- TransUnion was the only company that would let me download my report directly from their website.
- Experian required me to download a form request that had my info already printed on it. I had to check off the reason I was requesting the report and then mail the form to the company.
- Equifax gave me one of those nasty fill-in-each-box-with-a-letter data-processing forms, telling me not to staple, tape, bend, fold or mutilate it. I also had to “place into a number 10 envelope, affix required postage and mail to,” etc., etc.
Maybe you’ll get lucky and be able to access your reports moredirectly online at some point. But don’t assume that’s the case right now and get furious if that’s not the way it happens.
In addition, it’s possible that the hoop-jumping requirements currently in place for getting your report from two of the three credit reporting services might actually be for your and our benefit, as hard as that might be to believe. Given alarming increase of international hacking criminal enterprises (perhaps even sponsored by some governments), it’s entirely possible some of this make-work nonsense is meant to make it tough for thieves to hijack your personal financial date.
Whatever the case, however, don’t be deterred. Look at the current requirements for each company on the Internet. Then, just pick the easiest one to get at and get started.
Another option, although it’s more general: you can access all three companies and get your credit reports for free at this link:
But remember: Even if you access your reports this way, you should still take a break between examining each one in order to make notes and fully comprehend each report before going on to the next one. They can still be confusing if you try to take them in all at once.
Next: We’ll tell you what you can do with your report once you get it and examine it.