Have You Checked Your Permanent Record Lately?

As a young student I feared getting bad grades because I didn’t want any bad marks on my "permanent record." Get an "F" in fifth-grade science and it goes in your record. Act up in Mrs. Brown’s class? Yep, it’s in your record too. Get caught using a swear word and it’s not only in your permanent record but it goes right at the top! When you go to a parochial school like I did, you come to believe that there really is some mysterious file that follows you for the rest of your life.

Want to know a secret? There really IS a permanent file that follows you through life, but it has nothing to do with grammar school grades or activities. The real "permanent record" you need to be concerned about as an adult is your credit record! You should check your credit record on a regular basis, especially if you are planning on making a major purchase such as a car or home.

Your credit report or credit profile is a record of your credit activities. It lists your credit card accounts and loans, your account balances, and whether or not you make your payments on time. Your credit report is used by potential lenders to evaluate your creditworthiness. Credit reports have also been used by insurance companies to determine what rates you will pay for your insurance policies.

Reviewing your credit report can help you avoid costly errors. In one recent study, more than 50% of the credit reports checked contained errors. Other studies have shown similar results with as high as a 70% error rate. The most common error occurs when the information of another person, with a similar name or account number, is recorded in your credit profile.

A more serious problem occurs when someone gains access to your personal information and commits identity theft. Identity theft has become the fastest growing crime in our nation. Identity theft complaints jumped 75% from last year according to a recent Federal Trade Commission report. The monetary loss from identity theft crimes skyrocketed to a combined $53 billion in 2002! Accounts that appear on your credit report that weren’t opened by you could be a sign of identity theft.

For a thorough review of your credit profile, you need to check with all three major credit reporting agencies (CRA’s) : Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Information can vary between the three CRA’s and it’s important to make sure each has accurate and up-to-date information regarding your credit history.

Once you have your credit report, start by checking the accuracy of your personal information: your name, your social security number, address(es), etc.

Next , examine the accounts listed in your credit history. This section lists your accounts with creditors and your payment history with them. It is important to read this entire section and make sure the information is complete and has been reported correctly. Report any errors immediately to the credit reporting agency for investigation and correction.

Finally, check the number and frequency of credit inquiries to your file. Make sure that all the inquiries were authorized by you. Potential creditors who see a high number of inquiries in a short period of time may consider you a high risk and deny you credit.

Make it a habit to check your credit report annually. Doing so can save you time, money and future credit problems down the line.

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