Protect Your Credit Reputation
In our world of virtually undetectable credit fraud, big box-store credit card hacks and even full blown identity theft on the rise, it’s a wise idea to keep your eye on your own credit report so that you always remain in control and are always aware of your complete credit profile. This is where you will see unusual things should any potential problems be brewing. Think of this as a credit “Report Card” and should be reviewed annually at the very least. It is easier to understand than you think.
Obtaining your credit report is very easy to do and can be acquired directly from www.annualcreditreport.com. Our federal law requires each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to give you a free credit report every 12 months. You simply need to ask for it. All three credit reporting companies are fairly similar as the reports are an organized list of information and other related data in your credit file. Details not only include who has given you credit but also who has looked at your credit, where you’ve worked, lived and how you’ve conducted yourself with your repayment history. This is what determines your credit score.
Banks, employers and lenders use this information to determine if you are the type of person they will trust to act responsibly and if they choose to do business with you or not. Anyone can look at your credit if you give them permission or consent by signing an application or even an initial taken at a bank branch. Think twice before you sign anything. If you are looking for a credit card increase, in search of a mortgage, a line of credit at the bank or even an overdraft protection limit increase, remember that a credit report will most definitely be pulled by the creditor every time. This results in a temporary decrease in your credit score.
Credit scores range from 350-850 and do fluctuate based on your activity and balances. The higher the credit score the better. The lower the score the heavier the risk you are to anyone examining you for your credit integrity or even potential future employment.
Also, did you know that up to 25% of all credit reports have some errors? An easy fix is more common than you may think. You can clean or correct any errors by sending a certified letter to the creditor referencing your account details and confirming that you see the error on your report. The correction will be made, documented and will then be reported correctly on their next reporting cycle. Most creditors will report anywhere from 60-120 days and so at times your balances may not appear to be accurate on the report but are time stamped for easy reference and reconciliation.
An important factor to remember is that the retailer is usually the weakest link when it comes to protecting your identity and is the main target for these hackers. It’s up to you to check your statements monthly for any unauthorized purchases which should prompt you to act quickly. Keep a detailed list of all your accounts in a safe spot for quick reference.
Basic Tips On How To Use Your Credit
~ Your credit card balance should never exceed 50% of the limit. If your limit is $5,000 dollars than your balance you carry forward each month should never exceed $2,500 dollars.
~ Always double or triple the minimum payment due if you cannot pay it off entirely. Do not ride your balances to the maximum limit as this will have a direct negative impact on your credit score forcing it downward.
~ Never apply for additional credit unless you need to. Receiving a free gift in exchange for your personal information on a credit application should never happen. Remember, the representative pushing the card and offering you a gift usually does not work for the retailer.
Basic Tips On How To Protect Your Credit
~ Protect your social insurance / tax file number. Don’t carry your social insurance card or tax file number in your wallet or purse. Store this in a safe place together with other identification and important documents.
~ Regularly change your passwords. Use strong secure passwords to protect your online accounts and mobile phone apps.
~ Purge your wallet or purse often. Remove seldom used credit cards and cancel those you no longer need.
~ Regularly review your bills and credit card statements to make sure nothing is out of the ordinary. If you notice a discrepancy, contact your provider immediately.
~ Obtain free credit reports. You are allowed one free report each year from all three national credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. By requesting one report every four to six months, you can stay current and up to date on your credit score without any cost to you.
~ Use firewalls, virus, and spyware protection for your home computers. Update regularly to keep your computer safe from fraudsters.
~ Shred documents that contain sensitive information. Invest in a home cross-cut shredder that leaves no trace of the document. The cost of shredders is now quite reasonable and the quality has improved dramatically. Some will even shred old credit cards.
~ Keep a detailed list of all your current credit card and bank account numbers along with the client services contact details for each and keep it in a safe place. If necessary, you will be organized enabling you quick and easy access to put a hold on your accounts.
Please feel free to reach out to me anytime, I am always available to assist.