Checking your credit is important at the best of times. This means you can keep an eye on how your accounts are reported and if there is any inaccurate information in your credit history. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be even more essential to closely monitor your credit due to the increased risk of scams and identity theft.
Fortunately, the three major credit bureaus are making this task easier than ever. Equifax, Experian and TransUnion announced on April 20, 2020 that they will offer free weekly credit reports to Americans for a full year.
Taking advantage of this offer gives you a little more peace of mind in these difficult times because you can better track the impact of your financial decisions on your credit.
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How To Get Your Free Weekly Credit Report
Free reports will be available weekly, starting April 20. To access yours, visit AnnualCreditReport.com. It is a federally authorized official site where consumers could previously access a credit report from each bureau for free each year. You can now use it to get weekly reports at no cost.
To request your report, all it takes is a few simple steps:
- Click Request your free credit report
- Fill out a form with your legal name, social security number, date of birth, current address. You will also need to enter your old address if you have not lived at the current address for at least two years.
- Choose the report (s) you want from the three major credit bureaus. Since the reports are free, it probably makes sense to go with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion reports so that you can compare the information.
- Answer a few questions to verify your identity.
Once you have completed this process, you can review the requested report. You can do this weekly until April 2021, thanks to the decision by the credit bureaus to allow wider access to your information at no cost.
Why should you check your credit every week?
Checking your credit regularly is always a good idea. Normally you have to pay if you want more than each agency’s free annual report to which you are entitled under the law. Now you don’t have to pay to see them every week.
While you may not need to check in every week, it’s a good idea to review your reports at least once a month during the COVID-19 pandemic – or more in certain circumstances. Keeping an eye on your credit now is more important than ever because:
- There are many scams related to COVID-19: Americans have already lost $ 13.4 million for coronavirus scams and the government warns against hoaxes aimed at obtaining your personal information. If you provide your social security number to government agencies such as the IRS or the employment office, you could also be vulnerable to potential security breaches. As thieves target people in these troubled times, you want to be sure there aren’t any accounts on your report that you don’t recognize.
- Debt collectors could come after stimulus payments: The federal government has already provided direct cash payment to consumers, and more coronavirus stimulus money could potentially follow. While the government is not seizing coronavirus stimulus funds for overdue balances, other creditors are. You need to know if there are any judgments against you that could cause creditors to freeze your bank account.
- You want to make sure your creditors are correctly reporting your accounts: The CARES Law requires creditors to report accounts up to date if you have entered into a payment agreement with them, including an agreement in which you defer payments. It makes sense to ensure that creditors comply with the law.
- Some types of government assistance require good credit: Entrepreneurs looking to qualify for certain SBA loans or grants will have their credit checked. Make sure you keep an eye out for what they’ll see when they check your credit report.
- You may want to refinance loans or apply for new credit: Interest rates are quite low right now, which makes refinancing an attractive option. If you are considering a balance transfer or a personal loan to lower your debt costs during or after the COVID-19 pandemic, check what lenders will see on your credit report before you apply.
If you’ve put payments on hold, think your information has fallen into the wrong hands, or seek government help, it’s a good idea to check your credit weekly. You should also take advantage of the free weekly reports if you are trying to pay off your debts.
But if you haven’t made any changes to your credit behavior and pay all of your bills on time, it’s probably enough to check in once a month. You can still benefit from the free reports, even if you wait a few weeks between each visit to AnnualCreditReport.com.
How to use your free weekly report
Your free weekly credit report will not include your credit score, but it will include details on all of your financial accounts. He offers:
- A summary of judgments rendered against you, such as foreclosures or bankruptcies
- A list of each account (including open accounts and recently closed accounts) along with your payment history for those accounts
- Information on inquiries over the past two years (new credit requests)
You should examine yours carefully for:
- Check if creditors are correctly reporting accounts as up to date, especially if you are on a payment plan or have forborne payments
- Monitor your requests to see if anyone has requested new credit in your name and check all the accounts listed to make sure you recognize them
- Track your balances to see your progress if you are working on paying off your debts
- Identify any information on your report that could affect your ability to obtain a loan or grant
- Determine if there are any judgments or liens against you that could lead to the garnishment of your stimulus funds
If you spot information on your credit report that is inaccurate or suggests that you have been a victim of identity theft, contact the credit reporting agencies immediately. You can freeze your credit and have your report data deleted before it affects your ability to borrow or receive government assistance.
If creditors incorrectly report late payments while you are in forbearance, you can also contact them; CARES law should prevent this from happening if you have developed a payment plan. And if you have a judgment against you, you can make choices about how to protect your stimulus money, such as getting a paper check and avoiding depositing the money into a bank account that has been frozen.
Take advantage of your free weekly credit reports
Equifax, Experian and TransUnion have taken an important step to provide consumers with access to their credit information when they need it most. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to take advantage of the gift they have given you.