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How 'creditable' are you?

by Kathleen Acierto, staff writer

 

As of Dec. 1, 2004, Hawai‘i became one of several states in which residents are able to obtain free credit reports from three major credit bureaus. Ordering credit reports was normally a service that credit bureaus charge for, but thanks to a 2003 federal law this service is free to all Hawai‘i consumers.

Why is it so important that consumers can easily access their credit reports? Your credit report ultimately shows how financially sound you are. This is important if you plan to apply for a credit card or need to borrow money from a bank for a house, a car, or anything requiring more money than you have saved.

The government got involved because of the growing incidence of identity theft in today’s society where many transactions are done electronically. Nothing can ruin your credit rating faster than someone pretending to be you, purchasing items for themselves, and charging them to your name and account.

How this program works is that every person is allowed one credit report per year from each of the three major credit report companies. You could opt to get all three reports at one time, which some believe gives you a complete profile of your credit, or you could stagger your reports (getting one report every four months). Warren Imada, an LCC business instructor recommends this because, he said, it narrows down the time frame if unusual activity is occurring and aids in catching identity thieves before they can do too much damage.

The credit report contains the credit history of all the accounts you have ever opened. Whether you get all three at once or one every few months, your job is to inspect the entire report. Are there any accounts listed as open under your name that you haven’t opened? Are there any mortgage loans open under your name, but you didn’t take out a loan? Have you bought a new Porsche that you didn’t know about? In general, you are looking for any suspicious activity in your report, something you don’t remember signing up for. These are problems that should be reported to the bureau immediately.

There are several ways to obtain your credit report. The quickest way is through the Web site set up by the Federal Trade Commission www.annualcredit-report.com. Another way is to call toll- free (877) 322-8228, or write: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

The information needed to generate your report is: your name, address, social security number and birth date. The credit bureau may also ask for additional information regarding loan payments.
For more information, visit www.ftc.gov/credit .

 

 

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