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Credit: Credit Reports

BOSTON (CBS) – When was the last time you checked your credit report?

Credit reports are used by creditors, potential employers, landlords and insurance companies to judge whether you are a good credit risk, yet more than half of all consumers have not checked their credit report.

The three large reporting companies, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, will provide you with an annual free copy of your credit report, but you must ask for it.

You can get your free report by logging onto annualcreditreport.com. This central site allows you to request a free credit report, once every 12 months from each of the large credit reporting companies.

It is important to be checking your credit report at least annually because incorrect information can screw up your credit score, mess with your ability to get a loan, and the best reason to review your credit report is Identity Theft.

If someone is using your name or Social Security number it will probably show up on your credit report as an account you never heard of. Then it’s your responsibility then to follow thru.

I would recommend spreading out your free credit reports by requesting one every 4 months.

Your credit report will be slightly different from each of the reporting agencies for they have access to different data about you. Very few of your creditors report to all three companies. So you do need to check all three for they don’t share their information.

Over 25% of credit reports do have errors.  If you find errors on your report fix them. Many of those errors are easily repaired by contacting the reporting agencies and giving them the correct information. Something as simple as wrong addresses. They had me moving as often as my kids did while they attended college in Boston.

If you have kids check their credit report. Identity theft doesn’t just happen to grownups! Anyone with a social security number is vulnerable. And there have been many cases where an estranged parent steals their kid’s Social Security number and uses it because their credit is so bad.

You can also do it by snail mail but you’ll need to get on line at the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) website and download the form. You want the Annual Credit Report Request.

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You can hear Dee Lee’s expert financial advice on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 each weekday at 1:55 p.m., 3:55 p.m., and 7:55 p.m.

Subscribe to Dee’s Money Matters newsletter here.

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