Credit reports are a way to review financial history of an individual, particularly by a company from whom they are attempting to borrow.
As a consumer, you should remain informed on what your credit reports say. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the three (3) National Consumer Reporting organizations, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian to provide you with one (1) free credit report every twelve months.
These three credit reports vary slightly, and understanding how to read them is important. For example, TransUnion credit reports use several icons in your account summaries making it easy to read and understand the status of your various accounts.
The following is a summary of the primary portions within a credit report:
This includes your name, phone number, current address, Social Security Number (protected against identity theft) and your current employer along with your position and date of hire. TransUnion also states how long you have been recorded in their database.
This is simply a convenient legend for the icons used through the following account summaries. Account status symbols include: not applicable, unknown, current or 30/60/90/120 days late.
These are accounts in which information may lead potential creditors to view you as a risk. Account information includes name, address and phone number of creditor, your account number, current balance and highest balance, account limit, account status, account type and the date you opened the account. The report lists how much money is past due and how many times the account a payment has been made 30/60/90 days late. Bankruptcies, liens, foreclosures and judgments will be listed in this section.
This section lists all accounts that work towards a positive FICO score, increasing your likelihood of credit approval. They will contain the creditor’s name, address and phone number, your account number, your current balance and highest balance on the account as well as your limit, account status, the date the account was opened and who bears responsibility for the account. TransUnion will also specify the type of account and how many times a payment has been made 30/60/90 days late.
This portion lists companies that have made inquiries against your credit file and received your report within the last two years. This may include any companies with which you have applied for credit, mortgage loans or any potential employers. The name and address of the requesting company will be reported along with the date and reason for inquiry.
This lists the names and addresses of companies who have requested, although not necessarily received your credit report, along with the date of request.
The easiest way to protect yourself against Identity Theft is to carefully watch and stay on top of your credit. Be aware of what is on your credit reports, know and view the changes often and be concerned about the correctness of your individual credit.
Nationwide Credit Clearing monitors your credit and lets you know of any changes made to your credit report. Take this seriously, make notes and watch carefully. We are as concerned about the correctness and protection of your credit as you should be.
Identity thieves have become increasingly sophisticated, so monitoring as many information sources as you can, such as your credit files with the three credit bureaus and any public records with your name or address is recommended. Put safeguards on your checking and savings accounts, your credit cards and monitor them for incoming and outgoing funds and charges to your cellphone. Changes can and will occur in a moment’s notice.
Carefully monitor your credit reports for any suspicious activity. Far too many people never check their credit reports and have no idea what appears on them. Be aware, be alert and allow Nationwide Credit Clearing to be your primary source for information.
- Always shred documents containing personal or financial information.
- Only put your name on your checks – don’t include your Social Security number, address or even your phone number.
- If you receive preapproved credit offers make sure you destroy them.
- Don’t carry your Social Security number, birth certificate or passport in your wallet.
- Don’t mail anything from your personal mailbox unless it has a lock.
- Carefully review all monthly financial statements (credit cards, bank accounts) to be sure there is no fraudulent activity.
- Never give out personal information over the phone unless you are absolutely sure who you are speaking to.
- Never give out personal information on the Internet unless you are absolutely sure you are on a trustworthy website.
- Do not click links from emails to get to an online account – it may be a fake email directing you to a counterfeit site (phishing). If you think the email is legitimate, type in the web address of your account yourself.