Annual Credit Check

I just ran my free annual credit report. Three agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion all record your every financial move, from your mortgage payment to the spaghetti dinner you charged last weekend. “I just ran my free annual credit report,” sounds easy-breasy-mac-and-cheesy, so I should say instead, I just spent an hour and a half trying to get my annual credit report.

This shouldn’t dissuade you, but at least give you a realistic expectation of the time committment involved in this boring but important financial task. Here is your first shortcut, use, the “official” free credit reporting service recommended by the FTC. If you Google “free credit report” you will get a ton of sites that will also offer to give you a free report (they are required to by law on an annual basis upon your request) but they also want your credit card so they can begin charging you a monthly fee (for those who like to monitor their credit report every week, I haven’t yet met that animal). We have all fallen for that kind of free subscription, but usually for a magazine we wanted in the first place.

Experian gave me the full report, TransUnion said they couldn’t verify my identity and wanted me to call, and Equifax wanted a written request. So it wasn’t online easy, but you should do it anyway for two reasons: to catch identity theft early and to see your debt obligations and history. If you see credit cards that you never opened, you will know that someone else has had them opened and you need to make some calls ASAP.

But, provided everything is in order, which is more likely, it is a good to see all of your debt obligations in one place. It can be a good reality check as you will see all balances, credit limits, payment history and accounts. Because of this consolidation, it can be an uncomfortable wake-up call. Discomfort aside, that wake-up call may be what you need to get moving.

It will take longer than I anticipated to complete this annual task given two of the three would not give me an electronic copy and sitting on hold is a drag (made better by Pac Man) but it is off the list.