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Credit Monitoring Importance

Consumer credit reporting agencies offer to "monitor" your credit for a fee. Credit monitoring services can be costly. These services cost anywhere between $43.80 per year to nearly $150.00 per year depending upon the provider. Typically, these services say they will notify you if anything unusual or suspicious appears on your consumer credit report. Don't bother with credit-monitoring services. Instead, you should monitor your own credit.

How to Monitor Your Own Credit

You can monitor your own credit and make sure that your record represents you fairly and accurately by ordering and regularly reviewing your consumer credit reports from the three major reporting agencies. You can request a report from each of the three consumer credit reporting bureaus at the same time. The advantage of reviewing the three reports at once is that you can get a complete picture of your consumer credit report history that could be reported to others. However, if you want to monitor the accuracy of your consumer credit reports throughout the year, request your report from one bureau initially, then follow up with another bureau's report four months later and the third four months after that. This is an effective way to monitor your credit at no cost.

If you find errors, no matter how small, be sure you get them fixed, and make sure that you contact all three bureaus with your change. You should receive amended reports within a week after the changes take effect.

Be sure you close long unused accounts that are listed as still active on your consumer credit report. An unused account is an opportunity for an identity thief. If you close an account ask that it be listed as "closed at the request of the consumer."

What's in a Credit Report?

A credit report contains a consumer's history of loan payments, including those for mortgages, credit cards and auto loans. It is used by lenders to judge whether to grant additional credit to consumers, and at what rate. It is not the same as a credit score, which takes the information contained in a credit report and distills it into a three-digit number. Credit scores are not included in the credit report, and must be purchased from the credit bureaus or from Fair, Isaac Corp., the company that produces the widely used FICO score.

In addition, your credit report lists any recent inquiries made about your credit history. Every time you apply for a loan or credit card and the lender requests a copy of your credit report, that inquiry is noted in your credit history. Too many recent inquiries may lead the lender to conclude that you have a pressing need for credit. This can count against you in their decision.

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