Some of you young professionals out there may know that by law, you are entitled to one free report every year from each of the major credit reporting agencies (Transunion, Equifax and Experian). What you may not know, however, is that you are not entitled to get your credit score for free.
If you’ll remember from a previous post, your credit report is a listing of all the different types of credit accounts you have, your payment history, the balances on each and your places of residency over the past few years. Your credit score is a compilation of your credit reports, combined into a 3-digit score that helps a lender decide the likelihood that you’ll repay a loan.
Before we dive into the details, let’s start off with a warning. In recent years, knowing and staying on top of your credit score has become quite popular. Scammers and sleezy entrepreneurs quickly figured this out and took full advantage of it. The two necessary ingredients for getting your credit score – a social security number and your name and address – are unfortunately all a thief really needs to steal your identity. A number of scam websites exist out there, promising to give you your “free” credit score and report, and all you have to give is your personal identity. In addition to BOLO-ing (being on the lookout…it’s a thing) for scams, there are also a number of misleading websites out there with the word “free” in them. A lot of these will in fact offer you your credit report and score for free, but they sell it as an ongoing service…that’s free for 7 days, then costs $20 or so each month. Without even knowing it, they’ll quickly con you out of $20 for the at least the first month.
Fact versus Fiction
Fact: You are entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the major reporting agencies. Go to annualcreditreport.com to get it. It’s safe, reliable and quick. It won’t give you your credit score, but it will give you an accurate representation of what makes up your score.
Fiction: There are plenty of other free sites out there. Other “free” sites are often scams or not actually free. Some people do value knowing their credit score and viewing their credit report, and so they’re ok with paying for it. Be sure to do a bit of research to figure out if a site is reputable before handing over your personal information. There is no truly “free” method of getting your credit score (at least none that I could find). Most will require you to pay. A good one out there is freecreditreport.com. Yes, despite their annoying jingles and goofy commercials they are a reputable site. You will get some helpful info on why your score is where it is, and how you can improve it.
Fact: Using your credit report, you can estimate you credit score. A credit score is a proprietary formula that credit agencies are not required by law to give out. There are, however, good methods of estimating your score using information from your credit report. Check out this great tool if you don’t feel like shelling out money.
Fact: One method of getting a report/score is to simply ask. Various entities will run your credit score from time to time (banks, whenever you attempt to get a loan, employers, rental agencies…) and they’ll more often than not provide you with a copy. Never hurts to ask!
Fiction: I don’t need to check it, it’s 100% accurate. Mistakes can happen all the time, think about how many credit cards there are out there, how many bills are paid monthly, and how many time people apply for a loan. Really?…
Your credit score and report is an important piece of information that on which you’ll likely want to keep an eye. How closely you want to monitor your score will determine whether you should pay for a monthly service. Frequently reviewing your credit will ensure accuracy. Just please be smart about checking your credit score. This is very sensitive information and shouldn’t be given out willy-nilly. Be smart when checking your credit.
A quick Google search for “credit score” will yield all types of websites, all trying to convince you that they are legit. The one reputable website I was able to find (it’s a .gov, so you know it’s legit) is from the Federal Trade Commission.
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