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During this cold and blustery January we find ourselves hanging around home a bit more where it is warm and safe! This is a great time to check off a few items on our ‘need to do’ list before the weather warms up and we want to be out and about.

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Along with preparing to file your income taxes and updating the family budget for the new year, this is also the perfect time to do a yearly check of your credit history.

Taking a look at what is in our Credit Report each year is just one more way we can guard against someone stealing our financial information or our whole identity and creating problems for us down the road.

Recently a young woman shared her sad identity theft story. She and her husband were buying a house, when the bank checked her credit history they found she was deeply in debt and not making her payments. She was shocked, the debt wasn’t hers, and she always made her payments on time. After an investigation she found her sister-in-law, who has a very similar name, had stolen her identity and run up a huge debt in her name. Needless to say it took a long time to sort it all out and in the meantime the house buying had to be put on hold.

Had this young women done a regular check of her credit history she could have caught the theft in its earlier stages and stopped it in it tracks.

There are three companies that gather information for our credit history. They are TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. The Federal government requires each of them to give us our Credit Report, free of charge, once a year. The official website to request a free Credit Report is an nualcreditreport.com. You may also call 877-322-8228 and request a report by phone. Beware of other websites that claim to give you free credit reports. They often have hidden fees. It is best to use the official website listed above.

So check your credit report! It’s free, and it won’t hurt your credit score to check and might save you a lot of money, time and frustration. Get your report, look for mistakes and report any errors. Having inaccurate information on your credit report could lower your credit score and cost you a lot of money in higher interest rates if you apply for a loan, credit or insurance.

For more information on this topic, you can contact Christina Rittenbach, Stutsman County Extension agent, at 252-9030 or christina.rittenbach@ndsu. edu

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