September 7th, 2012
Why You Should Check Your Credit Report – Jim’s Story
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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!
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