A couple of years ago, I got a call from Visa asking me if I just purchased 20 tires in Georgia. Um, no I did not. Not only did I not buy 20 tires in Georgia, but I was at my sister’s house in Connecticut. It turns out that someone had skimmed my credit card number and created a fake card for their tire shopping extravaganza. Luckily, the purchase of 20 tires alerted a clerk who was on the ball and they reported it to Visa. I was refunded for the tires and my card was canceled.
About 6 months ago, I tried to buy gas and my card had been deactivated. It turns out a grocery store in my area had their computers hacked into and hundreds of credit card numbers were stolen. I quickly called the credit card company and the verdict?…another fake card fabricated for someone’s personal shopping spree in Florida. Again, no I did NOT try to spend $200 at the Build-A-Bear Workshop. Seriously? Who steals a credit card so they can buy 15 talking stuffed animals. Weird.
The point is that you never know who is gaining access to your personal information. It is super important to stay on top of these things as much as possible. Clearly you can’t prevent every Build a Bear or tire enthusiast from skimming your info, but there are certain things you can do to make sure your personal information and credit are staying intact.
One of the most important things you can do is check your credit through the 3 credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. There is so much information out there about how to check your credit. From years of research, here is what I know: There is only ONE authorized and free place to check your credit. https://www.annualcreditreport.com. This site is endorsed by the Federal Trade Commission, whose main mission is to maintain fair business practices for consumers.
From https://www.annualcreditreport.com, you can process each of the 3 reports one time per year. You can get them all at once or you can spread them out throughout the year. I choose to pull mine every four months. In January, I pull Equifax. In May, I pull Experian. In September, I pull TransUnion. That way, I get a more consistent idea of what is going on with my financial security.
Keep in mind that this service does not provide your actual credit score (called a FICO score). This is the number that lenders look at to determine eligibility for a loan. If you are considering applying for a loan or would like your FICO score, Equifax can process reports from all 3 credit agencies for a fee.
However, if you’re not in the market for a loan, you probably don’t need to obtain this number every 4 months. What the free reports from http://www.annualcreditreport.com will get you is a TON of information, including open accounts, accounts in bad standing or collections, flags on your account, previous names and addresses you have used, and much more. Once you are able to review all of this information, you have the right to dispute anything you feel is incorrect. It’s just a smart and free way to keep track of your accounts and also see what lenders may be reviewing regarding your financial history.
Here is my warning: Do NOT trust the commercials and websites that promise you free credit reports, such as freecreditreport.com. Most of these sites will either make you sign up for an ongoing service that you have to pay for (they say you can easily cancel, but are counting on you to forget) or they inundate you with credit card offers because they are actually gathering your information for marketing purposes. Plus, they have super annoying commercials with songs that haunt your dreams. Just remember…the songs will fill your head, the credit card offers will fill your inbox and the monthly charges will fill your credit card bill. Don’t do it!
Only use https://www.annualcreditreport.com to pull your credit if you want to keep your information safe and have the service free of charge.
Now what does this have to do with Neatening Your Nest? Lots of things, my friend. Financial stability is one of the hallmarks of an organized and stress free home. You owe it to yourself and your family to ensure you are doing whatever you can to maintain control of what is yours. It also gives you a clearer sense of where your money is going, allows you to get a big picture of money you may currently owe, makes you follow up on accounts you have closed, and lets you make sure that no one has opened any unauthorized accounts. It’s also easy and free, so why wouldn’t you do it. I just pulled my Experian report and it took me less than 15 minutes to obtain and review it.
So, who should get the credit for YOUR credit. YOU should! 🙂