Check Your Credit: Program Helps Protect Consumers Against Identity Theft

By Pat Melgares, K-State Research and Extension news service

 

Manhattan, KS– The U.S. Federal Trade Commission recently found that 1 in 5 Americans have an error on at least one of their credit reports.

 

Joy Miller, a family and community wellness agent in K-State Research and Extension’s Johnson County office, said having an error on a credit report is not the problem for most people, but leaving it there can be.

 

“You get a free report once a year from each of the three credit agencies,” Miller said. “Ideally you request one every four months to evaluate your credit throughout the year.”

 

Miller said a credit report affects a person’s ability to get a car or home loan, as well as the interest rate on that loan. An error on a report could indicate that someone was trying to steal your identity to apply for credit.

 

“People that aren’t (currently) looking at acquiring a loan think that they don’t need to check their credit, but often they can be some of the bigger victims of identity theft because they are not checking their credit report regularly,” Miller said. “Someone could be using their account to open credit cards or take out loans; it reflects on that person eventually when they do need to apply for credit.”

 

Miller said K-State Research and Extension agents are offering the program, Check Your Credit, to encourage Kansans to take advantage of their access to free credit reports.

 

The program is email-based, focused on reminders three times a year – Feb. 2 (2/2), June 6 (6/6) and Oct. 10 (10/10) – to encourage consumers to request a free report from one of the three primary reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

 

The process to request a credit report, she said, is made more simple by accessing one website, www.AnnualCreditReport.com.

 

“There can be information dating back 7-10 years on your credit report,” Miller said. “Things may fall off after a while, such as a home mortgage or bankruptcy. One credit report might reflect positive information, and another may reflect negative. What you want to do is find the (entries) that are inaccurate.”

 

In addition to reminding people to check their credit reports three times a year, Check Your Credit includes information on understanding your report; correcting errors; and using your credit report to your advantage. There is no cost to participate in the program, Miller said.

 

More information is available at local extension offices in Kansas.