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How to Check Your Credit Reports in 2020



Your credit reports and credit scores have a tremendous influence over your financial life. Good credit can open doors to competitive financing, inexpensive insurance premiums, and even job opportunities.

Bad credit, on the other hand, can make it difficult for you to qualify for even the most expensive extensions of credit. Even if you do qualify for financing or services with existing credit problems, you’re going to pay more.

It is critical that you check all three of your credit reports furnished by the major credit reporting agencies and do so often. They are simply too important to turn your back on them for an extended period.

The good news is that checking your credit reports is easy and free if you know where to get them.

You have several ways to access your credit reports online, free of charge. For starters, federal law requires the credit reporting agencies give you free copies of your credit reports once every 12 months, but only when you ask for them.

The credit bureaus are not required to sneak up behind you and stick a credit report in your back pocket.

You can access your free federally mandated reports from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax online at These free reports are one of the rights afforded to you under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), thanks to a 2003 amendment to that Act called FACTA.

Normally, you have the right to only one credit report per credit bureau every 12 months, but that has temporarily changed. On April 20, 2020, the three credit bureaus announced they would allow consumers even more free credit reports than required in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

You can access your credit reports for free each week through April 2021.

All three major credit reporting agencies are offering consumers free weekly access to their credit reports through April 2021. Again, you must make the request to take advantage of the offer.

In addition to your federally mandated free reports, you can find numerous websites that may offer you free credit report summaries. These so-called “freemium” sites will give you free monthly or even weekly access to one or more of your credit reports.

In exchange, however, you may need to agree to allow the company to market services or products to you.

Automated credit monitoring services exist as well, including some that will give you access to all three of your credit reports and your credit scores. Keep in mind, however, that while accessing all three of your reports and scores together may be convenient, such services often charge a recurring monthly fee.

Wherever you opt to access your credit reports, you should review all three of them often and make sure they are accurate. The credit reporting agencies work hard to make sure your reports contain accurate information.

Still, fraud and credit mistakes can occur. The only way to make sure your reports reflect a true picture of your credit history is to review these documents periodically on your own.

When you review your credit reports, be sure to keep an eye out for any potential red flags such as:

  • accounts that do not belong to you
  • inaccurate information about your accounts, such as balances or late payments
  • unauthorized access of your credit reports (a.k.a credit inquiries)
  • negative accounts that are too old to still be on your reports

Highlight any suspicious information you find and make a list. Should you discover any credit reporting errors, you’ll need to be able to explain the problem to the credit bureaus if you want to try to correct the problem.

In addition to your free annual credit reports, the FCRA gives you many other rights where your credit reports are concerned. One of the most important rights this federal law confers to you is the right to dispute any information on your credit report that you believe is wrong or questionable.

You can dispute incorrect information on a credit report in several ways. All three credit reporting agencies will allow you to submit credit disputes via mail, online, or over the phone, based on your preference.

Experian TransUnion Equifax
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion Consumer Solutions
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016-2000
Equifax Information Services, LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
888-397-3742 800-916-8800 800-685-1111
Dispute Online Dispute Online Dispute Online

The FCRA requires the credit bureau to investigate your claim when it receives your dispute. In general, a credit bureau needs to complete its investigation into your claim within 30 days, but the process has become much more effective and efficient over time with automation. Most credit report investigations take no longer than 14 days.

At the end of the investigation period, the data furnisher (that’s the creditor, lender, or collection agency that reported the information to the credit bureau) can take one of three actions. The data furnisher can:

  • confirm that the account is accurate, and the item you dispute will remain on your credit reports.
  • inform the credit bureau to delete its account from your report.
  • give the credit bureau new or different information and ask it to update the account.

Finally, if the data furnisher doesn’t respond to your dispute at all, the credit bureau will delete the account from your credit report because it is not verifiable. Whatever the outcome of your dispute, the credit bureau will notify you at the end of the process.

There is no guarantee a dispute will end the way you want it to. If you disagree with the outcome of the investigation, you can follow up with another dispute, submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFBP), or consider hiring a reputable attorney and pursue your FCRA rights.

Remember that checking your credit reports once, or even once a year, isn’t enough to ensure your credit reports remain accurate. Credit reports aren’t static documents. For most people, they change multiple times each month.

It’s smart to review your credit reports often, perhaps even once per month. When you keep an eye on your credit reports, it can help you to protect yourself from fraud and make sure that your reports and scores stay in good shape.

Checking your credit reports often is the best way to know you can count on your credit when you need it. And, for the foreseeable future, it’s free to do.

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Evicted California renters at greater risk of getting COVID-19



After 70 years in Monterey County, 87-year-old Mary Martinez moved in the middle of a pandemic, evicted from her modest one-bedroom, second-floor apartment at 1118 Parkside St. in north Salinas.

According to her former landlord, Martinez was evicted because she allowed a “violent man” to live with her, violating the conditions of her lease. Martinez said the man is her epileptic nephew.

Advocates say that while evictions like Martinez’s are rarer during the pandemic, landlords are feeling the financial squeeze. Some have sold rental properties to make up for lack of income. That can leave renters out in the cold when their new landlord raises the rent by hundreds of dollars or requires all renters move out before they take over the building.

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New program to help Black-owned online businesses | Technology



ATLANTA _ Many Black entrepreneurs struggle to get bank loans and professional help to launch new businesses. A new program aims to remove those stumbling blocks.

An Atlanta nonprofit and another business have committed $150 million to the 1 Million Black Businesses effort, which will make loans and provide financial and business advice to Black-owned startups and established small businesses. Atlanta-based nonprofit Operation Hope, which helps consumers improve credit scores, is kicking in $20 million, and Shopify, the online e-commerce is adding another $130 million for the loans and website-hosting services.

Other services firms providing expertise or help include Aprio, an Atlanta-based accounting firm, and First Horizon Bank.

It’s a package of products that many Black entrepreneurs couldn’t get through a bank or credit union, said John Hope Bryant, CEO of Operation Hope.

“A bank won’t lend you money unless you can prove that you don’t need it,” Bryant said. “That’s especially true with minority-owned small businesses.”

Small businesses with Black owners were half as likely to obtain business loans as whites, according to a Federal Reserve survey published earlier this year.

The initiative is the latest effort to help Black consumers and businesses enter the financial mainstream. Earlier this month, a group that includes rapper Killer Mike opened a digital bank aimed at Black and Latino consumers.

Banks and credit unions have tried for years to help Black consumers open checking and savings accounts. The efforts helped, as the number of U.S. households without bank accounts fell to 5.4% in 2019 from 6.5% in 2017, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Monday.

Consumers who own checking and savings accounts typically have access loans with better rates and a wider variety of financial services.

The federal government’s $660 billion loan initiative for businesses hit by COVID-19, the Paycheck Protection Program, also helped few Black-owned businesses, Bryant said. PPP loans were based on a company’s number of employees and its rent obligations. many Black-owned small businesses typically didn’t have enough workers to qualify and are based out of the owner’s residence.

Bryant said a bad credit history may not prevent applicants from receiving a loan.

He hopes more companies will contribute services such as insurance advice or software typically available only to well-established businesses.

Bryant noted that 1MBB is not a charitable organization, as participating companies like Shopify will likely get a pipeline of new business customers through the program.

“This is not pure philanthropy,” he said. “Shopify believes that Black-owned businesses are good businesses if they’re properly supported.”

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This Week’s Top Car Deals & Analysis – October 30, 2020



The final days of October offer a chance to take advantage of outstanding model year-end deals. Most offers end November 2, which means there isn’t much time left to enjoy this month’s best lease deals and deepest new car discounts. We even found incentives that can help those with bad credit buy a new or used car.

2021 car deals. Interestingly, 2021 new car incentives are showing some surprises. For example, Audi is already offering up to $12,000 in savings when leasing the 2021 e-tron all-electric crossover. We even learned that the new Genesis GV80 SUV will debut with a $589/month lease deal plus special financing rates.

Believe it or not, the 2021 Hyundai Veloster N could prove to be a great value despite a nearly $4,700 price increase compared to the previous year. That’s because our analysis finds that better incentives can make it just $10/month more expensive to lease than the 2020 model. Talk about getting more for your money.

Why are small cars bad to lease? Even though smaller cars typically come with lower price tags, that isn’t always the case when leasing. A mix of lower discounts, worse residual values, and smaller discounts can actually make a Nissan Altima cheaper than a Versa despite having an almost $10,000 difference in MSRP.

Shorter-mileage leases. More brands are offering shorter mileage allowances on car leases. Although this is typically used to offer consumers more flexibility, we’ve found cases in which you can end up getting less for your money. If you don’t read all the fine print, this could make comparison-shopping difficult.

Bad credit car deals. If you have subprime credit, you may find it harder to get financed. However, some manufacturers are offering special incentives to help make cars & trucks more affordable. For example, Chevy is offering $2,000 in down payment assistance plus 9.9% APR for 72 months on the 2020 Trax.

$0 down leases. If you’re adamant about now putting down any money on a lease, you’ll love Sign & Drive leases. In addition to requiring no money down, $0 down lease deals can cover your first month’s payment. Even hot sellers like the Honda CR-V Hybrid offer $0 down and as little as $330/month on a lease.

The high cost of safety? Even though most major automakers are offering more safety features than ever before, our analysis finds that the highest IIHS safety ratings still require costly options in 2020. That’s starting to change, but the cost of buying a car with the most bragging rights is still very high.

Disaster relief. Those affected by some of this year’s natural disasters should be aware that automakers are offering assistance. California wildfire assistance programs like Ford Employee Pricing can save thousands when replacing a car. Similarly, a 2020 hurricane relief program from GM offers $1,000 in savings.

Spooky loan situations. There are some scary scenarios you can avoid when getting a car loan. However, boosting your credit score is possible with some determination because negative items on your credit report fall off after 7 years. Our network of dealers is specially equipped to help those with bad credit.

Upcoming vehicles. Genesis finally revealed the new GV70, a small luxury crossover based on the highly-rated G70 sedan. Whether it’s a redesigned car, truck, or SUV, odds are you’ll find it on our Previews page. That said, as we reported last week, discounts ahead of a redesign can result in substantial savings.

This Month’s Cheapest Lease Deals »

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