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How to get a free, weekly credit report through April 2022

This valuable program has been extended.

Credit Report

Keeping up with your credit history just got cheaper.

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As the coronavirus pandemic persists, continuing the economic challenges for many, the scammers are still at it, targeting new victims. With hackers around the world innovating new tactics to gain access to your financial information, the Federal Trade Commission has announced an extension to a program, first launched in 2020, that gives all Americans free access to their credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.

With the participation of the major credit bureaus -- TransUnion, Equifax and Experian --  individuals may access their reports from all three at once. Prior to the start of this program, Americans were eligible to receive one free report per year; now, free reports are available weekly.

"Staying on top of your credit report is one important tool to help manage your financial data," the FTC site message says. "That's why the three national credit reporting agencies, which last year gave people weekly access to monitor their credit report for free, are extending that benefit until April 20, 2022."

Reviewing and understanding your credit report is a key part of being financially responsible. Credit reports show, in detail, all credit usage, payment activity related to an individual and court actions taken based on those accounts. When you look at your report, the activity should look familiar. If it doesn't, the potentially nefarious activity should be investigated further. Wrong information or fraudulent accounts not only impact you immediately, but there are long-term effects to be aware of as well. 

"Your credit rating means more than whether or not you are able to open a credit card," said Monica Dwyer, a vice president and wealth adviser for Harvest Financial Advisors. "It can sometimes determine whether or not you get a good or a great interest rate on your next home or car purchase -- or whether you can get the loan at all. If you rent, it can be the deciding factor on whether you can even rent or not."

Credit activity also has a direct impact on your credit score. For instance, late payments and high credit usage will lower your score, making it more difficult to open lines of credit -- including products like mortgages -- in the future. 

To access the free weekly reports, visit AnnualCreditReport.com and begin the process of requesting your reports. You'll be asked for your personal information and then get linked to the three bureaus' websites where there will be a series of questions to verify your identity. Once you've proven who you are, that agency's report on you will be available for review. Verify all the information is correct and download a copy for your records. 

If, after reviewing your credit, all three are accurate, then congratulations: You haven't been a victim of identity theft. On the other hand, any fraudulent accounts or incorrect info should be disputed with the specific bureau that provided that report. Also, keep in mind, this is for a credit report and not a credit score. Those can be obtained by the credit reporting agencies via their respective monitoring services. 

Also note that reviewing your credit report is different from credit monitoring, which proactively monitors your credit (among other things) and alerts you when activity is detected. If you're looking for hands-off, proactive protection of your credit and identity, consider a paid-for service like LifeLock.

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