Everyone is eligible to request a free credit report once per year from each of the three credit agencies: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion.
Today’s reminder includes instructions for Experian. Thanks to New Jersey NAPFA Advisor Ken Weingarten, CFP, CPA for providing the notes and steps below.
Note: The ads you see for “signing up” for your free credit report are for an unnecessary service (for most people). The link below is where the truly free credit reports can be obtained. Here are the steps necessary:
- go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com
- follow the on-screen prompts through the process
- ensure you select Experian
- click “print report” once your report appears on the page
- review the report to ensure everything is fine
- you may wish to save your report somewhere safe.
If you find there is something amiss, contact that agency immediately. You can contact Experian at 866-397-3742. In another 4 months, do the same for TransUnion, and then in another, do the same for Equifax.
If you are married, make sure your spouse obtains his/her report, too.
Identity theft monitoring is another service that’s often advertised alongside free credit reports. Before signing up, make sure that you don’t already have it available through membership sites like AAA, AARP, or even through relationships with your financial institutions. If you keep enough balances with some institutions, they may cover the cost for you.
Finally, the service for which you will not see any ads is the credit freeze. The Equifax credit breach a few years ago brought about legislation making it free to freeze your credit. If you have no near-term need for credit, this is the best way to protect anyone from using your identity to obtain credit in your name. Go to each of the three credit bureaus and search on “freeze my credit.” Later, if you do need to apply for a loan, it’s a simple task to unfreeze it. Experian even asks if you would like a date to freeze it back again. A week to 10 days should be sufficient for this.
Protecting your identity is one facet of protecting your financial health, as well as your sanity. Ask anyone who has had their identity stolen, and they will assure you, it’s worth the extra steps.