If you are going to be applying for major credit in the near future (auto loan, home loan, etc.), you should keep tabs on your credit report. You want to make sure there are not bogus accounts, records, or marks bringing your score down. Even if you are not considering a large transaction, it is wise to watch what is going on with your credit report.
Identity theft has been ingrained in many peoples' minds as a scary, damaging phenomenon. We've all heard the stories of people who have had their identity stolen and the headaches, financial loss, and missed opportunities it has caused. It used to be that the advice for preventing these types of problems was "do not use your credit card on the Internet," "do not bank online," or something similar. That advice simply does not apply any longer. Who is going to never make a purchase online? The Internet offers too many opportunities that many people are not willing to ignore just in the name of "identity protection." Thankfully, the Internet allows for some things that can help you protect yourself as well.
One of the first things that you should do is add a "fraud alert" to your credit file. The fraud alert simply puts a notice on your credit report stating that there has been or could be fraudulent activity using your name. Any time you, or a person pretending to be you, tries to open a line of credit with your social security number, the creditor is invited to contact you to verify the application. Unfortunately, the seller is not required to make this phone call, but most will.
Another helpful way to keep you protected is to periodically review your credit report. You may access your credit report for free by visiting http://www.annualcreditreport.com . When you are looking at the report, you want to make sure that there are not any accounts listed that you have not opened. You should also see how many inquiries have been reported; If you have not recently applied for credit, you want to make sure your report reflects that. Keep in mind that this will not grant you access to your credit score for free. You will only be able to view your credit report. However, it is not as important that you stay informed of your FICO score. The FICO score can change from month to month without any major changes to the credit report itself. Maybe the balance on one of your accounts was paid down substantially; That can cause your score to increase even though there are no other changes to your report.
If you catch new and unauthorized accounts soon after they are opened, you will be much more likely to have them fixed and removed before too much damage is done. If you are planning on applying for a mortgage, auto loan, or another large loan, it is especially important that you make sure your report is accurate. You do not want to find out a month before you want a mortgage that your credit report is inaccurate bringing your scores down. If you review your report on your own a few months ahead of time, you can correct any inaccuracies before they may affect your loan application.