News from the Tennessee Valley Current
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 8, 2005
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MY LIFE
Lauren Howard

Check your free credit (mis)report

Check your credit report for errors or fraud once a year. Pull your score six months before you make a big purchase.

Sounds like reasonable advice. You're probably planning on doing just that . . . sometime soon.

If you're like me, you'll probably never get around to it. Chances are no identity thief is after you; no credit bureau has misreported a collection to your account.

Or maybe you've been stung by past negligence, or strokes of bad luck strike more often than not. Stung and struck, that's me too. And finally, if you remain the eternal optimist who assumes "it won't happen to me," listen up.

There's no horror story to tell, though I can vouch that credit mix-ups aren't all that uncommon.

One morning in April, I plopped into a seat across from a loan officer to apply for my first mortgage. I wasn't nervous. I had never checked my credit, but collection agencies hadn't been hounding me either.

In fact, I was day-dreaming about "my" house's potential. Should I splurge on Corian countertops or go with the less-expensive tile? I was struggling to pay attention to the broker.

Until her tone changed. She was glancing over my credit report. "You have excellent credit. I don't think I've ever seen anyone this young with a credit score this high."
Wow. Sure glad I opened all those store credit cards to get 10 percent off my first day's purchase, I thought. I'll make a point to keep doing that. I wonder if I'll get, like, a 4 percent interest rate?
Out loud I said, "Really? Can I have a copy?"
As she pushed print out across the table, I skimmed over my Social Security number, birth date, before one of the names caught my eye. My grandmother's name.

I scooped it up and stuffed it into my bag for later inspection.

That afternoon, I called "Nana" about our combined credit file.

"Yep. You're on the report. I wasn't born in 1935, or opened a Sears account in 1986, and I've never been to Goody's," I confirmed.

Lucky for me — my grandmother thinks she's invincible, too.

She giggled and said, "Just keep your mouth shut."

I didn't get that 4 percent interest rate, as most of you know, is impossible. But all the same, correcting the error isn't a top priority. I'll get around to it . . . sometime.

Lauren Howard is current page editor.

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