Madison, Wis.--You visit the doctor to safeguard your physical health; now a University of Wisconsin-Extension expert says your financial health can also benefit from a routine check-up.
To make it easier for people to monitor their financial well-being, UW-Extension educators around the state are kicking off the “Check Your Free Credit Report Campaign: 2/2, 6/6, 10/10” with a new website to remind people to view their three free reports each year on Feb. 2, June 6 and Oct. 10.
“Much like campaigns to get a medical check-up or a flu shot, our goal is to help people save money and improve their financial health,” says J. Michael Collins, UW-Extension family and consumer economics specialist and director of the UW-Madison Center for Financial Security.
Consumers are responsible for checking the accuracy of credit reports prepared by the private firms Equifax, Experian and TransUnion that are sold to other businesses.
“2/2, 6/6,10/10 is an easy-to-remember set of three dates,” says Collins.“Each represents a day to set aside five minutes to pull one credit report from one credit bureau.”
The new website at http://fyi.uwex.edu/creditreport introduces visitors to the “Check Your Free Credit Report Campaign: 2/2,6/6, 10/10,” tells them why it’s important to check their credit reports and walks users through the process of pulling and reading the reports.
The information in credit reports can play a role in whether you’re offered a job or eligible for a loan. But in spite of the reports’ importance, only about 16 million free reports are ordered each year out of more than 200 million people in the U.S. with credit records. In Wisconsin, around 39 percent of adults reported obtaining a copy of their credit report in the past year, compared to 42 percent nationally, according to a 2009 FINRA Financial Capability Study ( http://www.usfinancialcapability.org/)
Credit reports are different from credit scores, Collins explains. “Although a credit score is a useful piece of information, it is calculated using the information in your credit report.”
There is only one legitimate source for a free credit report, though there are many imposters, says Collins. “AnnualCreditReport.com ( https://www.annualcreditreport.com/) and its mailing address and phone number are the only truly no-cost ways to obtain the free credit reports everybody is entitled to by law.”
Other websites claim to offer free reports, scores or monitoring, but they often incur significant one-time or ongoing frees. Unsolicited e-mails, pop-ups or phone calls offering free scores or reports are not official.
“Checking one free credit report every four months lets people do their own credit monitoring without having to pay $10 or even $20 a month, which are typical amounts charged for these services,” says Collins.
To learn more contact your local county UW-Extension office. Contact information is available at http://yourcountyextensionoffice.org
J. Michael Collins