On one website, you can access your credit report and score whenever you'd like at no charge, resolve disputes when something's awry, and place a security freeze on your credit to protect yourself from fraud.

Such a one-stop-shop does not currently exist, but a New Jersey congressman's push to make it a reality has been approved by the House of Representatives and moves on next to the U.S. Senate.

"We need a modernized system that empowers all consumers, especially those facing new challenges with this pandemic, with transparency and the ability to correct errors to credit reports, and to make sure everyone can have access to credit, so that they can have a home, a car, and enjoy everything that everyone who works hard should have access to," said U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. 5th District, sponsor of the bipartisan Protecting Your Credit Score Act of 2020.

Under H.R. 5332, the three credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — would be required to create a single online consumer portal that provides numerous credit check and protection tools to consumers, including free and unlimited access to consumer reports and credit scores.

"It also tells consumers who these three bureaus have sold your data to in the prior couple of years," Gottheimer said.

Paul Oster, president of Better Qualified in Eatontown, said prior to the COVID-19 public health emergency, consumers had access to free reports once every 12 months. Under the CARES Act, it can be accessed weekly. But obtaining one's credit score, a number that essentially tells lenders how much you can be trusted with a loan or credit, typically comes with a cost.

"That score really determines how much we're going to save, how much we're going to spend. It's just not easy to get access to it," Oster said.

Oster said he's in favor of Gottheimer's legislation, but fears it's an "exercise in futility" because it completely strips the credit bureaus' ability to charge consumers for any number of services.

Gottheimer's bill, which is co-sponsored by Republican New York Congressman Tom Reed, also aims to raise cybersecurity standards for the bureaus in order to reduce the risk of future data breaches. Gottheimer pointed to the 2017 Equifax breach that resulted in lost data for more than 147 million people.

The House approved Gottheimer's bill 234-179 on June 29.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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