We’ve all seen those funny commercials for credit reports and have probably read articles in magazines urging us to get our yearly free credit report. However, have you ever wondered why you need it? Or how to go about getting it? And how to avoid scams posing as free credit report services? Well, let’s try to answer some of those questions.
Knowing your credit score can help guard against identity theft. Identity thieves may use your information to open a new credit card account in your name. Then, when they don’t pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report. Inaccurate information like that could affect your ability to get credit, insurance, or even a job. Since your credit report has information that affects whether you can get a loan — and how much you will have to pay to borrow money, you should check it annually to make sure it is accurate
The Federal Trade Commission enforces The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) which requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. A credit report includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued or have filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide credit reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home. You can see why it is important to receive your credit report to monitor these things yourself before applying for a loan, credit card, mortgage or even a new job.
To order your free credit report, visit annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228. Or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Do not contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies individually. They are providing free annual credit reports only through annualcreditreport.com, 1-877-322-8228 or mailing to Annual Credit Report Request Service.
Here’s an important piece to remember– The law allows you to order one free copy of your report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies every 12 months.
You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies at the same time, or you can order your report from each of the companies one at a time.
Okay, so here is the part to make a note of to protect yourself from scams. Use only annualcreditreport.com to order your free credit report. That is the only site under the law- FCRA that is mandated to provide your credit report for free. Other websites that claim to offer “free credit reports,” “free credit scores,” or “free credit monitoring” are not part of the legally mandated free annual credit report program. In some cases, the “free” product comes with strings attached. For example, some sites sign you up for a supposedly “free” service that converts to one you have to pay for after a trial period. If you don’t cancel during the trial period, you may be unwittingly agreeing to let the company start charging fees to your credit card.
Some “imposter” sites use terms like “free report” in their names; others have URLs that purposely misspell annualcreditreport.com in the hope that you will mistype the name of the official site. Some of these “imposter” sites direct you to other sites that try to sell you something or collect your personal information. So make sure you type the url correctly and don’t enter your credit card information, exit the site if they ask for this information and then attempt to connect with annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.
The only information that you’ll be asked for to process your credit report is your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. If you have moved in the last two years, you may have to provide your previous address. To maintain the security of your file, each nationwide credit reporting company may ask you for some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment. Each company may ask you for different information because the information each has in your file may come from different sources.
While your credit report helps determine your credit score, these reports will not give you your credit score. For more information about your credit score visit- http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0152-how-credit-scores-affect-price-credit-and-insurance#credit
For more details and to learn what steps to take if you do find inaccurate information on your credit report, please visit the Federal Trade Commission and read the article on Free Credit Reports http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357)