While you’re in law school, maintaining good credit history is vital. If you’re having trouble staying within the student budget talk to the Law Financial Aid Office instead of resorting to credit cards. Students who feel they need some guidance or support with their credit should also contact our office—we have resources that can help.

Credit Reports

Lenders typically use three credit bureau reporting agencies: Experian, Trans Union, Equifax. You cannot choose which credit bureau you want the lender to use for your credit review. You may have a negative credit item on one credit bureau’s report and not on another because creditors do not necessarily report information to all three credit bureaus, so you need to check all three regularly.

All consumers are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies every 12 months. Students are encouraged to take advantage of this benefit. You can find more information at annualcreditreport.com.

Credit Scoring

Credit scoring is an automated way of evaluating your credit history against a number of pre-programmed criteria. In addition to finding negative credit items, credit scoring enables a lender to examine other criteria, such as credit card balances relative to their limit, an individual’s number of credit cards (even if they do not have current balances due), and slow payment history. These items are part of your credit “character” and affect your credit score.

If any negative credit items appear on your credit report, you should take whatever steps are necessary to resolve the issue. If the issue has been resolved but has not been removed from your credit report, you should obtain documentation from the party that reported the issue to the credit bureau. Most lenders have an appeal process so you may submit documentation to clarify your credit history.

Find out more about credit scoring at myFiCO and Credit Karma.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is the fastest growing internet crime—and mighty scary if you know what kind of damage can be done by someone who steals your identity.

Some useful websites:

Some easy ways to protect your identity:

  • Shred any mail or documents that contain personal identifying information—especially credit card offers. A cross-cut shredder is best.
  • Never carry your social security card with you—leave it in a safe place at home.
  • Check your credit card statements each month for any unusual charges.
  • Check your credit report annually for all three credit reporting agencies.
  • Never reply to any email that asks for your social security number, bank account number, etc.—most likely someone is phishing.
  • Be careful of the the personal information you reveal on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites.
  • Not all wireless connections are secure—be careful—don’t pay your bills while you’re in line at Starbucks.
  • If someone promises you a lot of money in return for your personal information, be suspicious and don’t give it out.