Consumer Alert: Weekly credit reports are now free. Here’s why you need to check for mistakes

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – There are few things in life that are truly free. But recently, the three credit bureaus announced we all can now get free weekly credit reports indefinitely. You may remember during the pandemic the bureaus allowed us to get free weekly reports, but that was supposed to stop this year.  With the assurance that free weekly credit reports will continue to be available, now is a good time to be reminded of the necessity of checking your credit report for errors. A study by the Federal Trade Commission indicated that one in 20 Americans have errors on their reports that a significant enough to cause them to be denied a loan or pay a significantly higher interest rate.

Your credit score affects not only your ability to get a loan for a house or a car, but also your ability to get a cell phone carrier, even what you pay for car insurance. You’ll remember last spring I told you about a study by the Consumer Federation of America that shows that New Yorkers with low credit scores pay more for their car insurance, even when they have clean driving records. The study found that those with bad credit scores pay on average $1,367 more than those with excellent credit.

And the situation is worse for those with bad credit scores who live in predominantly black neighborhoods. Those folks pay on average $3,411 dollars more. Because your credit report affects so many areas of your life, Consumer Reports say checking your credit report at least once a quarter is crucial.  And if you find a mistake, you need to notify all three bureaus.

“The first thing you need to do is write out your dispute, provide the information, print it all out, put it in an envelope, get to the U.S. Postal Service and get that letter certified and get it sent,” said Lisa Gill, a Consumer Reports investigative reporter.

Gill says it’s important for you to dispute any credit report errors by certified mail because it’s proof that the document was sent, delivered and received by the bureau. Make sure to include any documents that support your claim. And Consumer Reports stresses that you shouldn’t file your dispute online. It has found that at one of the bureaus forces you to sign away your right to sue them if they won’t correct your report. It’s hidden in the fine print.