Safe Ways to Check a Credit Score

Your credit score has become an increasingly important piece of information, not only for use in establishing and obtaining credit, but also for favorable rates on insurance and the ability to lease a rental property. Your credit information is something you should protect and monitor for correctness. There are three major providers of your credit score; each one uses its own proprietary formula for the resulting score. And, there are many safe and convenient ways to check your scores.

Online

In 2003, the federal government enacted the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act), which resulted in credit bureaus setting up the AnnualCreditReport Web site. This site allows consumers to access and review for accuracy a free copy of their credit report each year. This Web site also allows access to each of the three credit bureaus--Experian, Equifax and TransUnion--who offer reduced prices to obtain your credit score. The centralized jumping point takes you to secure Web sites (indicated by the addresses beginning with https://) for each provider, which ensures the safe delivery of your information.

Loan or Mortgage Officers

Most loan officers or mortgage brokers can access your credit scores for you. Whether you are interested in applying for a loan or planning ahead for the future, these contacts are valuable to start the process. In each case, these officers can only access your credit score if you authorize them to. A visit with them and a signature on an authorization form is usually all that is required. A small fee of usually less than $25 may be required to get a copy of the report and scores. Before he pulls your credit report, ask the officer or broker whether you can have a copy, because for some that may be against company policy.

Credit Counselors

Another safe resource for getting your scores is a certified credit counselor. The counselors you are looking for usually work for a nonprofit or government entity (city or county) and are free or inexpensive to utilize. They not only will get you a copy of your credit report, including scores, but they will also help you decipher the reports and advise you on how to make any repairs that may be needed. These organizations should be certified by a recognized entity, such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or NeighborWorks America. Beware of so-called "credit repair" or "credit counseling" companies that want large upfront fees to show you your scores and help you with quick-fix credit repair.

Caution

Allowing your credit to be obtained, or "pulled," by a loan officer or counselor may have a negative impact on your score. If you personally pull the credit from the AnnualCreditReport Web site or another secure online source, there is no impact, positive or negative, on your scores. If you allow other people to pull your report, this can affect your score, so limit those types of inquiries to one or two per year.

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