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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Want to see your free credit report? UW-Extension campaign makes it easy

ELLSWORTH - The Federal Trade Commission reports that only one out of every three Wisconsin adults checks their free credit report each year—making Wisconsin the sixth lowest of all the states for people checking their credit reports.

The University of Wisconsin-Extension’s “Check Your Free Credit Report: 2/2, 6/6, 10/10” campaign wants to turn those numbers around by making it easier to remember to order your free credit report.
Federal law gives everyone the right to request three free credit reports each year from AnnualCreditReport.com — one from each of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. There are three ways to order your free credit report: through the mail, by phone toll free; or at the official website www.AnnualCreditReport.com.

“Ordering a free credit report is relatively easy and takes most people less than five minutes,” says Katie Feuerhelm, Family Living Educator in Pierce County.  “What’s not so easy is actually remembering to order your reports and keeping an eye on your credit worthiness throughout the year.”

Anyone can sign up to receive an email reminder from UW-Extension three times a year – on 2/2, 6/6, and 10/10 – on the campaign’s website at http://fyi.uwex.edu/creditreport.

While you can order all three reports at the same time, Pierce County UW-Extension recommends that you view one report every four months so you can be sure the information is up-to-date and accurate year round.

More than 500 individuals have already signed up for an e-mail reminder since the campaign started in 2013. According to a 2015 UW-Extension survey, four out of five people ordered their free credit report after receiving a reminder email and reported that everything looked fine. Unfortunately, seven percent found an error and needed to contact a credit bureau or creditor to correct it.

The UW-Extension survey also asked those receiving reminders about their knowledge of credit reports. While almost half reported they know how information gets on to their report, another forty percent said they know little to nothing about how long information stays on the report.

Negative information, such as a late credit payment, will stay on your credit report for seven years and can lead to a lower credit score, says Olive. Some negative credit events, including certain bankruptcies and unpaid judgments, can stay on a credit report for more than ten years.

“It is completely up to each individual to look over his or her own credit report for old information that should be removed, common mistakes, or signs of identity theft,” says Feuerhelm. “Sometimes wrong information is a simple data entry error, and other times, it could be a sign of fraud. Better to discover an error yourself then to have your creditor, insurance company, or employer find it first.”

In addition to email reminders, the UW-Extension “2/2, 6/6, 10/10” website, http://fyi.uwex.edu/creditreport, provides information and website links for ordering, reading, and understanding credit reports. The campaign’s website has additional information on how long different types of credit information can stay on a report and steps you can take to increase your credit score. 

Contact Katie Feuerhelm, 715-273-6781 x6661, kathryn.feuerhelm@ces.uwex.edu or Peggy Olive, 608-262-6766, polive@wisc.edu

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