Whether or not you are one of the 147 million consumers affected by the 2017 Equifax data breach, retirees need to stay vigilant about their credit profiles. A later-life move, purchases of items like cars, cellphones or insurance might require a strong credit score. What to do? Consider these five moves:
Leverage the positive
Retirees who have experienced a dip in their credit scores could be ideal candidates for Experian Boost, a program that lets consumers give the agency a look into their checking accounts to verify positive track records on paying utility and cellphone bills. Two-thirds of the customers who try the Boost program see a rise in their scores, the company said, with an average increase of 12 points.
Embrace the freeze
If you are retired and don't plan to move or buy a car in the near term, this may be a good time to put a freeze on your credit with the three main bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. If you do this, creditors can't access your information until you remove the freeze with a PIN number. For a fee, the bureaus offer a credit lock, which can be removed without a PIN, but may not carry all the protections of a true freeze.
A lot of credit experts tell consumers never to close credit accounts because it can hurt scores, but Experian said any dip is typically short-lived. "If you close an account your scores will dip, but they usually recover within two or three months," said Rod Griffin, director of public education for Experian. If you are not planning to buy a house or a car in the next six months, cleaning up accounts may be a good idea now.
If you are thinking about a reverse mortgage, where a lender provides funds to homeowners 62 and older that are tied to home equity, be aware that your credit history is now part of the equation. Since 2015, these lenders have been required to assess whether a borrower has the ability to continue making home improvements, and tax payments on the property, and credit reports are a key part of the equation.
Check for a windfall
If you want to check your potential eligibility to claim part of the Equifax settlement, go here: eligibility.equifaxbreachsettlement.com/en/eligibility. To file a claim, go here: equifaxbreachsettlement.com/file-a-claim.
"You should always be diligent about managing your credit history," Griffin said. "It can affect a wide range of financial transactions."
Tribune News Service