If you're at home during these weeks of social distancing, you may be looking for activities to tide you over. Of course, objective number one is to stay healthy and keep your family, friends, and neighbors healthy as well.
There is one additional thing you can do that does not take much skill or effort: check your credit report. For most Americans, the last time they checked their credit report was during the Bush presidency, if at all.
You are entitled under the law to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the “Big 3” credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian. To obtain your free reports, go to https://www.annualcreditreport.com, or print and submit the form found on the website.
As credit report attorneys, we see daily many different types of errors or other problems on credit reports:
- Signs of Identity Theft. In 2018, there were over 16.7 million victims of identity theft, costing victims over $1.7 billion in out of pocket losses. Your credit report is one of the most critical tools in detecting and preventing identity theft. Signs to look for on your free reports:
- Accounts that you do not recognize;
- Inquiries from businesses you don't recognize;
- Unexpected changes in your credit score;
- Collections accounts you don't recognize; or
- Addresses or names on your credit report that don't belong to you.
- Inaccurate Account Information. Check that the information for your accounts is reporting accurately. For example, look out for:
- Closed accounts reported as open or “charged-off”;
- Mixed Files - accounts that belong to someone with a similar name or social security number;
- Incorrect payment history (e.g., reporting you missed a payment when you paid on time);
- An account delinquency that is older than seven years;
- An account that was charged-off or sent to collection more than seven years ago;
- Incorrect date of first delinquency (often called “re-aging” a debt);
- Showing a debt is still owing for an account discharged in bankruptcy;
- An account for which you are not responsible (for example, where you were only an authorized user); or
- Failure to note that an account is “disputed” following a dispute.
- Personal Information. Your personal information section should reflect information that belongs only to you. Look out for anything suspicious, including:
- Names or addresses that don't belong to you;
- A social security number that does not belong to you;
- Incorrect birthdate;
- Incorrect or incomplete name, address, or phone numbers; or
- Incorrect spousal information (listing a former spouse as a current spouse).
- Public Records. This section of your credit report lists public records associated with you. Things to be aware of:
- Civil lawsuits you were not a party to;
- Criminal records that don't belong to you;
- Lawsuits or judgments older than 7 years;
- Bankruptcies that you did not file (for example, a bankruptcy filed by a spouse);
- Bankruptcies you filed more than 10 years ago;
- Non-conviction criminal records that are older than seven years (charges, arrests, etc.);
- Tax liens you paid more than seven years ago; or
- Evictions that are not yours.
- Inquiries. The inquiries section of your report lists the third parties who have ordered copies of your credit report. If you do not recognize an inquiry, that could be a sign of fraud or identity theft. It could also indicate that a third party ordered your consumer report without a permissible purpose.