February 22nd, 2013 2:08 PM by Dan Marchiando
As I was considering potential New Year resolutions recently, I remembered that I needed to pull my personal credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. This is the truly free site that was required by federal legislation in 2003, and became accessible in California December 1, 2004 (The Federal Trade Commission FTC.gov serves as regulator for this site). You can see by this date that these free annual reports have been around for over 8 years, and yet in spite of that fact, statistics show that very few people are taking advantage of this free service to monitor and protect their credit information. A December 2012 report by the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) “… estimates that as many as 44 million consumers obtained copies of their consumer (credit) file disclosure(s) annually in 2010 and 2011 – either as a result of obtaining free annual file disclosures through annualcreditreport.com (15.9 million), (or) through one of many various credit monitoring services (26 million)…” To give this some perspective, the reader should know that there are currently about 238 million adults in the U.S. And the CFPB report states that each of the three big credit bureaus or agencies—Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian— has over 200 million separate credit files, which means that approximately 84% of the adult U.S. population has a credit file that can be checked. But on an annual basis, only about 18% of the adult population is viewing their credit information, and only about 7% are doing so using the free service at AnnualCreditReport.com. In fact, these CFPB statistics show that more people have accessed their credit reports from paid credit monitoring services, than they have from the free AnnualCreditReport.com service.
Because I am always promoting the free service available at AnnualCreditReport.com I was surprised to find that even I’m really not that good about remembering to pull one of my three free credit reports every 4 months. But I have an easy solution now, that you can employ too, that involves your smart phone and/or a calendar program like the Google or Outlook calendar. I just set a recurring annual event/appointment with a reminder alarm—in February—to pull my credit report from Equifax, on AnnualCreditReport.com. And then I created a recurring annual reminder in June for TransUnion, and another one in October for Experian.
Why is it important to check your credit regularly? I can think of two good reasons. One, a significant percentage of credit users are subject to various forms of identity theft every year, and secondly, because statistics show that a significant number of individual credit files have errors—some serious, and some more benign. By checking your credit on a rotating basis every 4 months, you can do a pretty good job of monitoring your credit file, for no dollar cost, and a small investment in time. Once you’ve done it a few times you will likely find that it goes pretty quickly. And by checking your credit online in this fashion, you can also more easily dispute errors in your file electronically, rather than through the mail. Like maintaining a house or a car, it is usually advisable to do regular maintenance , before problems turn into even bigger problems, and cost more to fix.
To help you in getting started using AnnualCreditReport.com, I’m providing a link here to the official site, and a short illustrated PDF tutorial, "Annual Credit Report Website Instructions", on pulling your credit at one of the three bureaus. Be aware that there are a large number of imposter sites and sites with similar names that try to hook people using search engines, so watch your typing fingers, and a be sure to bookmark the official site for next time.
Thanks for your interest.