The Federal Trade Commission reports that only one out of every three Wisconsin adults checks their free credit report each year, making Wisconsin the sixth lowest of all the states. The University of Wisconsin- Extension “Check Your Free Credit Report: 2/2, 6/6, 10/10” campaign wants to turn those numbers around by making it easier to remember to order a free credit report.
Federal law gives everyone the right to request three free credit reports each year from AnnualCreditReport.com — one each from the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. There are three ways to order your free credit report: through the mail, phone toll free, or at the official website AnnualCreditReport.com.
“Ordering a free credit report is relatively easy and will take most people less than 5 minutes,” says Mary Meehan- Strub, La Crosse County UW-Extension Family Living Agent. “What’s not so easy is actually remembering to order your reports and keeping an eye on your credit worthiness throughout the year.”
Anyone can sign up to receive an email reminder from UW-Extension three times a year – on 2/2, 6/6, and 10/10 – on the campaign’s website at http://fyi.uwex.edu/creditreport. While you can order all three reports at the same time, La Crosse County UW-Extension recommends that you view one report every four months so you can be sure that the information is up-to-date and accurate year round.
More than 500 individuals have already signed up for a reminder since the campaign started in 2013. According to a 2015 UW-Extension survey, four out of five people ordered their free credit report after receiving a reminder email and reported that everything looked fine. Unfortunately, however, 7% of individuals found an error and needed to contact the credit bureau or creditor to correct the error.
The UW-Extension survey also asked reminder participants about their knowledge surrounding credit reports. While almost half reported they know how information gets onto their report, another 40% said they know little to nothing about how long information stays on their report. Negative information, such as a late credit payment, will stay on your credit report for seven years and can lead to a lower credit score. Some negative credit events, including certain bankruptcies and unpaid judgments, can stay on a credit report for 10 years or more.
“It is completely up to each individual to look over his or her own credit report for old information that should be removed, common mistakes, or signs of identity theft,” encourages Meehan-Strub. “Sometimes wrong information is a simple data entry error, and other times, it could be a sign of fraud. Better to discover an error yourself then to have your creditor, insurance company, or employer find it first.”
In addition to email reminders, the UW-Extension “2/2, 6/6, 10/10” website, http://fyi.uwex.edu/creditreport , provides information and website links for ordering, reading, and understanding your free credit reports. The campaign’s website has additional information on how long different types of credit information can stay on a report and steps to take to increase your credit score.
For more information on credit reports, contact Mary Meehan-Strub or Susan Taylor at the La Crosse County UW-Extension, firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-785-9593. Check us out on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/lacrossecountyuwex.