Credit reports and identity theft
Have you seen your credit report in the past 12 months? You can receive a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three national credit reporting agencies by going to AnnualCreditReport.com.
Review your credit report
Your credit report is a record of your borrowing and repayment history. Your credit report leads to your credit score — the number used by lenders to determine how much of a risk you pose with money they may choose to lend to you.
Knowing what’s on your credit report is important to identify any possible mistakes that may lower your credit score. It’s a good idea to review your credit report at least once a year.
Build your credit
The easiest way to build strong credit is to pay your bills on time and to limit your use of credit. Student loans appear on your credit report, even if payments aren’t yet due.
Making student loan payments before they’re due gets you into the habit of paying and helps you build positive credit history. Some lenders may report payments if you make them while in school, though not all do. Even if they don’t report the monthly payment, your credit report will show the declining balance.
Understand your credit score
Your credit score is not a factor when you apply for federal financial aid loans, though it is often used in many other credit decisions. A high credit score means you are less of a risk. Less risk means you’re more likely to be approved for credit when you need it and your interest rate may be lower as a result.
The score itself is based on many variables, but the biggest factor is timely payment. Being 30 days late on a payment could cause your score to drop substantially. To learn more about what affects your credit history, a reliable resource is the Fair Isaac Corporation website.
Beware of identity theft
When you pull your credit report, some of you may see an account that does not belong to you.
Maybe it was a computer mistake or maybe someone stole your information and opened an account. Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes. Identity theft could affect your credit, and may take time and effort to get your credit fixed.
Protect your Social Security number
Preventing identity theft means being mindful of your personal information, especially your Social Security number (SSN). Your SSN is requested when you apply for credit, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and receive government benefits.
Most organizations will not request your SSN over the phone. If you’re asked, think about how the organization may use your SSN and if it’s a legitimate request.
If someone calls you and asks for your full SSN, hang up and call the organization back at a number you know belongs to them. Identity thieves may pose as your bank and call you. If your bank calls you, they will have your personal information already and will not ask.
Protect yourself online
Be careful online. Your online activity makes it easy for hackers to access your personal information, such as passwords.
Security experts suggest using different passwords for all of your accounts, and using the strongest possible passwords. For more tips, go to the partnership between the federal government and the technology industry at OnGuardOnline.gov. The Federal Trade Commission also provides beneficial information about how to prevent identity theft.
We take protecting your personal information seriously. When we work with organizations that handle repayment on your student loans, we require these organizations to comply with our information security policies.
The lenders and the servicers associated with your loans also share information, and comply with strict policies. This practice is normal in the student loan industry, and precautions are taken to prevent data leaks.
If you have questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you!