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Making the most of free weekly credit reports--available now through April | Dollars and Sense

It's a good idea to keep an eye on your credit report, especially during the pandemic, to help prevent fraud and inaccuracies that can ruin your credit score.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Many Californians have gone through a financial rough patch due to the pandemic. For some, that’s meant requesting mortgage or student loan forbearance, both of which could impact their credit rating if not handled properly.

Whether the forbearance is ongoing or has ended, according to Rod Griffin, senior director of Consumer Education and Advocacy at Experian, a major credit reporting agency, that makes today an excellent time to check your credit report. It’s important that your report accurately reflects your situation.

“Making sure that those accounts are reported correctly, that as forbearance periods end, they're reported and updated appropriately,” Griffin said.

Griffin said it’s also a good way to protect yourself against fraud.

“If you're a victim of identity theft, getting that report, knowing... what's in it can alert you to identity theft much more rapidly so you can respond quickly. That's going to be crucial as well,” he said.

Everyone is entitled to one free credit report a year by law, but now through mid-April, you can check your report for free every week. Checking monthly should be enough for most people, but the important thing is to check.

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“I tell people ‘check your credit reports’ and their heads drop, and they go, ‘I don't want to know what's in it,’” Griffin told ABC10's Dollars and Sense. “I always tell them, ‘You can't do anything about it until you do, and it's probably not as bad as you think.’”

It’s also good way to jog your memory, Griffin said. 

“I’ve talked to people who will look at their reports and realize they have accounts that they hadn't thought about. Perhaps they had a credit card account, they put it in a drawer somewhere and forgot it was there. They can take steps to make sure that it's there for them to use, and open and active if they need it,” he said.

In the end, credit reports are like the keys to your fiscal future. 

“I always encourage people to know what's in that report. Knowledge is power. It's cliché, but it's true. And the more they know, and the more engaged they are, the more financial power they're going to have,” Griffin said.

Here's one final useful bit of knowledge. Despite what you may have heard, Griffin said that checking your report does not impact your credit score.

“You can check your own credit report as often as you like. It will not hurt your credit scores. That's a huge myth that you need to not worry about,” he said.

To find out what’s in your credit report, go to annualcreditreport.com. Free weekly credit reports are available until April 20, 2022.

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