Checking Your Credit Score

When you're young, it's the grade on your school report that has you worried, and then you grow up and it's another score that has your attention—your credit score.

Many folks have no idea what their credit score is.

When is the last time you checked your credit report? Consumer Reports suggests you do this once a year because if there's an error it could end up costing you plenty.

There are some 13 million inaccuracies on credit reports every year. It can start with a simple mistake. Maxine Rubin said a credit card payment she made was not accurately recorded.

"I wrote them a check for 180 dollars and I got the next bill saying that I didn't pay $180 and I said, ‘Yes I did’ and they said, ‘No, you didn't, you only paid $100," Maxine Rubin said.

Maxine did, in fact, make a $180 payment. Before the matter was cleared up, she was charged a string of penalty fees and even lost credit lines for her business.

Consumer Reports said any number of things can result in an error on your credit report, so it's worthwhile checking your information once a year.

If you do find an error on your credit report, Consumer Reports said you need to dispute it with all three credit bureaus, including Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.

"Because they don't all share the same information and you want to be sure they all have the correct information," Jeffrey Blyskal said.

Consumer Reports said, unfortunately, once you think you've fixed an error, a government survey shows 13 percent of the time it ends up reappearing.

"So we recommend that you go back three or four months later, check your credit report to make sure that hasn't happened," Blyskal said.

And be aware, federal law now entitles everyone to one free copy of their credit report, once a year, from each of the three credit bureaus.

Consumer Reports said if you have a credit dispute, it's important to put it in writing, and send a letter instead of an e-mail. You'll want to send it return receipt requested. Also, be sure to send a copy of your dispute directly to the creditor, as well as to the three credit reporting bureaus.

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