It pays to be familiar with your credit report. The information it contains determines your credit score, your ability to access credit and loans, and even your chances of landing a job or signing a lease. It’s a good idea to check your credit report on at least an annual basis.
But in certain scenarios, you should closely monitor your credit report no matter when you last checked it. Here are six times you need to check your credit report.
Debt Collectors are Calling
If you’re getting calls from debt collectors regarding unpaid bills, you may need to do some damage control. Whether the debt in question is valid or not, it could be showing up as a delinquent account on your credit report and damaging your credit score.
If the debt is invalid, you’ll need to dispute it with the credit bureaus and the debt collector. If the debt is valid, you might be able to negotiate its removal from your credit report as a condition of payment. Remember, you have rights when a debt collector calls, and you shouldn’t automatically pay a debt without getting more information first.
You’re Getting Separated or Divorced
If you and your spouse are separating or divorcing, you’re probably splitting up your finances. Checking your credit report will help you identify all the accounts you need split up (although credit reports are in no way comprehensive). You’ll also want to monitor your credit report if you’re worried that your ex might try to use your personal information to open accounts in your name.
You Recently Moved
Moving can be stressful and complicated. You might forget to pay your final bills or neglect to have mail forwarded to your new address. Months later, missed payments and delinquent accounts could land on your credit report and damage your credit. After you’ve spent a few months in your new home, you should check your credit report for any forgotten accounts.
Your Personal Information is Compromised
Have you done business with a financial institution, company, or other organization that has suffered a data breach? Has your wallet or purse been stolen? If so, your personal information is compromised. You should check your credit report to see if anyone has used your information to commit identity theft.
You’re Applying for Credit
If you’re about to apply for a mortgage, auto loan, credit card, or any other new form of credit, you should check your credit report first. You don’t want to get rejected due to any nasty surprises that are lurking on your credit report.
It’s Been a Year Since You Last Checked
You’re entitled to an annual free copy of your credit report. This includes your Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax credit reports, all of which may not contain identical information. If you haven’t checked your credit report in a year, you have nothing to lose. It’s free, and contrary to popular belief, checking your credit report does not negatively affect your credit.
If some cases – such as if you’re unemployed or a victim of fraud – you can get free copies of your credit report more frequently.