September 7th, 2012

Why You Should Check Your Credit Report – Jim’s Story

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check credit report

**Welcome to Self-Improvement Month here on the Credit Karma Blog! Today’s guest post is contributed by**

The experts always advise that you check your credit reports regularly because you never know when someone may steal your identity or the credit bureau messed something up on your report. The statistics are not on our side. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in 2010, 7.0% of households had at least one member age 12 or older who experienced one or more type of identity theft victimization. As for errors, the statistics are much much worse. I try to check regularly… but sometimes even that doesn’t catch everything.

So imagine my surprise when a security officer, doing a background check because I had applied for a security clearance through my job, asked me why I lived in Allentown, PA but never disclosed it in my security forms. I’d never lived in Allentown, which is why I didn’t say I lived in Allentown, though I hear it’s a very nice place; and I told him so. He pulled out my credit report and right there, on my Equifax report, it stated that I had lived in Allentown for a period of time several years ago. It also listed where I actually lived, College Park, MD, and Equifax didn’t find it strange that I was in two places at once. What was even more interesting was that Equifax didn’t find it strange that I had two social security numbers – a fact I would discover when I checked my report soon after.

If you were me, you’d expect that a credit bureau would have some checks in place to prevent this sort of thing, but they don’t (or at least they didn’t). What they do have is the consumer. Companies report what they want to report and it’s up to you to check your credit report and notify the bureau of any errors or inaccuracies. Inaccurate information is actually quite common on a credit report.

The moral of the story is that you need to check your credit reports as often as you can because you never know what weird errors might pop up. The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to request your credit report from each of the bureaus once a year. I’ve long suggested that you stagger the request of your reports from the three major bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) so that you get one report every four months, this gives you insight into any changes as frequently as possible.

Also, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will now be supervising the larger “consumer reporting agencies,” of which credit bureaus are included, which would include review of compliance systems and procedures – this might cut down the number of errors.

Only time will tell… until then, check your reports often!

writes about personal finance at

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  1. Jim,
    That’s an unfortunate story. Two Social Security numbers?!

    Getting a report from one agency every four months is a great tip. I didn’t think of that, but I’ll pass it along to my followers.

    Do you recommend doing those checks with

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

    Christian L. at 8:21 am on September 7, 2012
  2. why i cant see my real balance on here its bin 208$ since last month my real balance is 93$ my credit is improving thanks to knowing how bto use my cards properly.

    michal at 10:34 am on September 7, 2012
  3. Your balance on your credit report is your “reported balance,” not necessarily the current balance on your statement. The reason for this is that credit card companies (and other creditors/lenders) report new balances to the credit bureaus just once a month. Therefore, a balance change could take a full billing cycle to show up.

    bethy at 10:11 am on September 8, 2012
  4. Unfortunate and unnecessary. I have questioned why they give social security numbers at birth. Some of the discrepancies could be alleviated if they didn’t validate everybody by a number. When all of us have unique names, birth dates, and other associations that could be used.

    NSH at 9:50 am on September 29, 2012

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