April is Financial Literacy Month and as a consumer the best way to protect your money is to stay informed. The Office of Consumer Protection wants to remind consumers that you should take the time to review your credit reports on a regular basis.
As defined by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a credit report is a statement that has information about your credit activity and current credit situation such as loan paying history and the status of your credit accounts. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act gives every consumer the right to a free credit report every year from each of the three credit reporting agencies.
The three major credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian and Transunion. The free annual credit reports can be requested online through AnnualCreditReport.com. Be aware that if another website is used, you may be asked to pay a fee for the credit report. Consumers can also request these reports by calling 1-877-322-8228 (which includes a verification process) or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
These reports can be requested from each credit bureau, one at a time. Spacing the requests out throughout the year is a good practice to continuously monitor your credit.
The New York State Department of State goes on to advise that consumers are entitled to a free credit report upon request when you:
- have been denied credit in the past 60 days;
- have been denied employment or insurance in the past 60 days;
- are unemployed and plan to apply for employment in the next 60 days;
- are on public assistance; or
- suspect that you have been or are about to become a victim of fraud, such as identity theft.
Reviewing your credit reports for accuracy can help you identify errors or potentially fraudulent activity. Be sure to report suspicious records or dispute any errors directly to the credit bureau. Errors on your credit report may affect your credit score which could have a financial impact.
Contact our office for assistance if you are a victim of identity theft or have questions about avoiding or reporting fraud. The Erie County Office of Consumer Protection can be reached by phone at 716-858-1987 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Submit your Consumer Protection complaints through our website.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Credit Reports and Scores
Federal Trade Commission:
New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection:
Equifax: 1(800)685-1111, www.equifax.com
Experian: 888-EXPERIAN, 1(888)397-3742, www.experian.com
Transunion: 1(888)909-8872, www.transunion.com