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Check Your Credit Report
In this complex economic environment, it is essential to have a clear understanding of credit. There are a variety of ways to use credit—some of us use credit to stretch our resources and purchase high-cost assets such as a house or a car, while others use credit for daily purchases. Whatever the case may be, it is important to understand how credit impacts you. Remember, it is your responsibility to take an active role in educating yourself about credit.
Credit reports can now be obtained for free!
Consumers do not have to pay a fee to obtain their credit report. Each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies is required to provide a free credit report, upon request, once every 12 months. Remember this is a free service—don't be fooled by an unsolicited email or advertisement that tries to charge a fee for a credit report. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com.
Why review a credit report?
Monitoring your credit report is important because so many decisions are now based on how you manage your finances To make sure that credit scores are based on accurate information, you should consider reviewing your credit report from each of the three major consumer credit reporting bureaus each year.
Also, checking your credit report is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself against identity theft. All U.S. residents may monitor their credit report for errors and unauthorized use by ordering one free copy of their credit report each year from each of the three national credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, at AnnualCreditReport.com.
If you find errors on your credit report, contact the credit reporting agency. They are required to investigate and respond to you within 30 days of your notification to them.
Learn More About Credit Reports
Credit Counseling Services
Many consumers who are in a debt crisis seek help from credit counseling services as an alternative to bankruptcy. While there are many reputable agencies helping consumers get out and stay out of debt, there are also an increasing number of companies that are out to victimize the debt-ridden consumer.
Promises of quick debt reduction or debt settlement plans with high up front fees (in the hundreds or thousands of dollars) should be a red flag to consumers. Selecting the wrong credit counseling service can cause you considerable financial harm.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce oversees two types of consumer credit businesses:
- Credit Service Organizations
- Debt Management Companies
Debt Collection Scams
The Department of Commerce offers these helpful tips to help Minnesotans avoid becoming victims of debt collection scams:
Call us first. Do not send money to a debt collector you think may be perpetrating a fraud call the Department of Commerce to see if the person is, in fact, a licensed debt collector.
Protect your identity. Do not give away or verify any of your personal financial information.
Protect your money. Ask your bank to put an alert on your account (often these scammers have a consumer s bank account information before they begin harassing them).
Avoid phony calls. Be wary if the debt cannot be verified or if no documentation is received. At that point, ask the callers to stop contacting you and register with the National Do Not Call Registry or call 888-382-1222.
Contest errors. If no debt is confirmed, contact any involved parties to clear up inaccuracies on your credit report, such as: the debt collector; the creditor or company claiming unresolved accounts; and the major credit bureaus. Write a detailed letter and include supporting documents to prove your case. The Federal Trade Commission provides additional resources for reporting errors.
Know your rights. Review the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which sets standards for collection agencies and prohibits abusive tactics. The FDCPA is enforced by the FTC and violations should be reported. Debt collectors:
May not make false or deceptive claims.
Are not allowed to make idle threats, express or implied, or use abusive or profane language.
Should not discuss consumers' accounts with unauthorized third parties.
May not inaccurately report credit information or pressure consumers to pay debts they do not owe.
Must investigate the validity of a dispute over a debt.