Want a Free Annual Credit Report?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the “Big Three” nationwide consumer credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to provide you with a free copy of your credit report every 12 months. Prior to the Fair Credit Reporting Act a credit report could set you back nearly $10 each.
A credit report will include information on where you live and have lived in the past, how you pay your bills and whether you’ve been sued or arrested. It may list your current or past employers. It will also show if you have filed for bankruptcy. Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, along with other agencies, make a profit by selling the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other companies who will use it to appraise your for credit to make a major purchase, buy insurance, get a job or rent a house or apartment.
If you do a search under “free credit reports” you will get hundreds of results from companies who would love to sell you a credit report or ongoing credit monitoring. These sites are impostors whose real scheme is to snag people who may think they are looking at the official site for free credit reports. In fact, many of these sneaky sites are actually operated by Experian, Equifax and TransUnion themselves so that they can charge you for the same thing you are entitled to get for free.
While there may be times that you need to buy a report or it may be appropriate to use credit monitoring services, most of us just need to take a look at our credit report once a year to ensure there are not inaccuracies.
If you do get your free credit report under the Fair Credit Reporting Act this year it’s important to note that the reports will not be sent automatically next year. You’ll need to make a new request each year that you wish to receive a new one.
There are a few exceptions to the 12 month rule. Under the law you’re entitled to receive a free report if you are turned down for a loan, job, insurance, etc. because of your credit. In that case you can ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. All companies have to inform you if they will be checking your credit and often you can request a copy of whatever they receive simply by checking the appropriate box on the application. You can also get a free report if you reside in one of the states that already offers free credit reports from each credit-reporting agency (Colorado, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey and Vermont) or you’re applying for unemployment or receive public assistance.
Here’s how to request your copy of your credit report.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has established a website (annualcreditreport.com) to order your free annual credit report online. This is the one and only authorized website to get your free credit report under the provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This website is legitimate and is absolutely free. If you are on a website and it asked for a credit card you are either in the wrong place or you are paying for additional services offered by one of the three credit reporting agencies. Annualcreditreport.com is a great resource if you only need a copy of your credit report every 12 months.
Go to: annualcreditreport.com.
By Completing an Annual Credit Report Request Form
This form is available online at ftc.gov/credit. Once you complete the annual credit report request form you will mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
By Contact the Agencies Directly:
While the FTC does not recommend you request your report directly from each individual agency, it is possible to do so.
First of all, fair warning, the credit bureaus change their mailing addresses to request a credit report by mail all the time. Apparently they do not like written requests or mailing full reports because (obviously) it is more labor intensive and expensive to send a printed copy via snail mail. But many people like to have a “hard copy” directly from the credit bureaus in their hands. Before you use any of the addresses below please double check on the official websites (also below) to confirm the mailing address. There are often several mailing addresses listed for different departments or services so be sure you are sending your request to the correct address to request a free copy of your annual credit report. Remember, regardless of how you request your credit report the same once-every-12-month rule applies.
It’s a good idea to include the following information when you request a free copy of your annual credit report with the three with the three major credit bureaus. Don’t forget to SIGN YOUR REQUEST. In your letter you should provide:
* Your full name
* Your date of birth
* Your Social Security number
* Your current address AND any former address/addresses when you have lived for the previous 5 years
* A photocopy of your driving license, showing current address (or other government-issued proof of identity such as a passport)
* Your Social Security numbers and/or a photocopy of your Social Security card
* You may want to also include a current utility bill containing your current address if you have not been there long.
The addresses for the three major credit reporting agencies are listed below:
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, Georgia 30374
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, Texas 75013
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
Once you get your report you will need to carefully review it for inaccuracies. If you ordered your reports online at annualcreditreport.com, you’ll find that all three credit bureaus offer some form online dispute resolution. This is a good place to start, but can be limiting and may not resolve all of your problems.
If you want to call and dispute errors on your report each of the three agencies use the number below for the corresponding agency.
* Equifax: (800) 685-1111 (Online Dispute Resolution)
* Experian: (888) 397-3742 (Online Dispute Resolution)
* TransUnion: (800) 888-4213 (Online Dispute Resolution)
The best way to fix an error on your credit report may be by mail. While not as convenient as online dispute resolution, a dispute letter gives you the opportunity to spell out in detail what the error is and how it may have occurred. The agency has a legal obligation to thoroughly check the details of your dispute letter and report their findings back to you. Before you send a letter you may want to call the credit bureaus to verify what you need to do for your specific case and what information you may need to send with your letter.
Typical items you may need to include are:
* A copy of your driver’s license or state ID card
* A copy of your Social Security card
* The name of the creditor or collection agency in question
* The associated account number in question
* A full, written description of why you’re disputing it
* Any written proof you may have that will support your case
There are many examples of sample dispute letters online.
Finally, you should note that while you will get a credit report, you will not get a credit score (or a FICO score). You can roughly estimate your actual credit score by using a free credit score estimator.