If the state of your credit is a top concern while the coronavirus pandemic rages on, you aren’t alone. With millions at least temporarily unemployed, financial hardship and the credit implications that could follow are a worry for many. Luckily, the three credit reporting agencies (CRAs) – Experian, Equifax, TransUnion – are providing a resource to help.
Through April 2021 you can now request a free credit report weekly from each of the CRAs to stay on top of new reporting and dispute potential errors.
Here’s How it Works
Free credit reports are not a new offering. In fact, according to federal law, consumers are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three CRAs. Free credit reports can also be requested for a few other reasons: if you are denied credit, employment, or insurance due to your credit (although you must make the request within 60 days of the denial), if you’re unemployed and plan to look for employment within the next 60 days, if you’re on welfare, or if you have been (or suspect you may have been) the victim of identity theft or fraud.
The difference now is you can request your reports online or through the mail weekly for free – no questions asked. Here’s what you cando to obtain your reports:
- Step 1: Go to AnnualCreditReport.com (Beware of imposter websites – this is the only place you should go for free credit reports.)
- Step 2: Select “Request your free credit reports.”
- Step 3: Fill in the required information and select the CRA you’d like to view your credit report from.
- Step 4: View your report.
- Step 5: Repeat for the remaining two CRAs.
Why Request All Three Credit Reports?
If you’re wondering why you should take the time to review your credit report three times, the answer is simple: each credit report does not necessarily contain the same information. Creditors are not required to report information to all (or any) of the CRAs – therefore, you may see different information on each one.
Here’s What You Should Be Looking For
Now that you have each of your credit reports in hand, make sure you look at each of these sections:
- Personal information
Including: name, birthdate, social security number, address, employer
- Account information
Including: credit limits, loan amounts, balances, payment history, status (closed, open, delinquent)
- Public records information
Including: bankruptcies, liens, judgments, civil suits, foreclosures
Including: number of credit inquiries, who made the credit inquiry
Most importantly, make sure all identifying information is correct, accounts are being accurately reported (pay close attention to payment history), and confirm you are in fact responsible for all of them.
[Get more information about how to review your credit report.]
In addition, if lenders or creditors have agreed to put your account in forbearance or deferment due to financial hardship caused by coronavirus, make sure they are reporting your account status as “current” not “delinquent” (a requirement stipulated in the CARES Act). The primary exception to this would be if the account was delinquent before entering into a forbearance or deferment period — in this case, it would continue to be reported as delinquent.
[Are you experiencing financial hardship related to coronavirus? Know your rights.]
How to Dispute Credit Report Errors
If you identify incorrect, incomplete, or inaccurate information on any of your three credit reports, you are entitled to initiate a dispute. Information that is negative — but accurate — is generally not eligible to dispute.
You can start a dispute directly on the CRAs website (here: Experian, Equifax, TransUnion) or by letter with these instructions and tips. However, if you’d rather not navigate the dispute process on your own, Upturn can help.
Sign up for a free account and Upturn will walk you through the items on your TransUnion credit report, point out potential issues, and help you manage disputes right from your dashboard. Get started here.