Taking control of your credit

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- If your life depended on it, would you know what is on your credit report? If you don't, you're not alone. Experts, however, say you should know what is on your credit report for many reasons.

To take control of your credit, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper recommends beginning with the credit bureaus and reviewing your credit report.

"I think it is important for consumers to know about your credit report and get control of it,” he said. Upon request, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion will provide you with one free copy of your credit report every year. Your credit score is not included in the free report but you may pay a fee to obtain your score.

“It is important to try to have your credit report as good as it can be because it can affect the type of interest rate you get for a loan,” Cooper said.

By reviewing your report, you have an opportunity to look for errors.

“Sometimes you find things that are wrong, and at that point you need to inform the credit reporting company; you need to inform the creditor that sent in the report that is erroneous,” Cooper said.

Sarah Hutchinson, who manages Consumer Credit Counseling Services (CCCS), a division of Family Services of the Piedmont, agrees it is important for individuals to be in control of their credit.

“There are many clients who have never pulled their credit report, and some of them pulled it and found so many errors,” she said.

Even worse than finding errors is discovering that you are the victim of identity theft. Both Cooper and Hutchinson say identity theft is often discovered upon an individual’s review of their credit report.

“Oh, that happens often," Hutchinson said. "I would think that if 10 clients came to us, there would be at least six who would find items that didn’t belong to them.”

Hutchinson said many clients who visit CCCS initially are stressed and overwhelmed. The certified credit counselors help them to understand their report and dispute any errors. They work to design a payment plan to help clients manage their debts, rebuild their credit and increase their credit score.

If you would like more information on the free Consumer Credit Counseling Services available through Family Services of the Piedmont call 336-373-8882 or visit www.familyservice-piedmont.org.

The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office provides information on their website, www.ncdoj.gov, on the steps to take if your identity has been stolen.

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