The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the reporting agencies every 12 months. This law was enacted by the Federal Trade Commission to allow consumers to monitor their credit for errors and fraud. It is important that you understand how to get free credit reports and take advantage of your rights.
What Is Included in Credit Reports
Your credit report contains personal information on you and your financial activities. It tracks your previous addresses, activities on your loans and credit cards, and any financial judgments against you such as a law suit or bankruptcy filing. This report is referred to by creditors, employers, insurance companies, and more. It is therefore important for you to ensure that your information is accurate and not compromised.
Where Do I Get a Copy of My Reports
There are three major credit bureaus: Transunion, Equifax, and Experian. Each may contain slightly varying information on you. They also compile scores differently. There is a central website at annualcreditreport.com where you can request a copy of your reports. You may also call them at 1-877-322-8228 or print and mail the request form from their website. You will be asked to provide your name, date of birth, social security number, and one or more addresses to verify your identity and request your reports.
Other Credit Reporting Websites
There are a wide range of other websites that pull data from particular credit agencies and monitor your credit activities. They alert you of any changes to your credit profile (such as your credit score being pulled or new accounts being established). This is useful for monitoring your score throughout the year and detecting any fraudulent activity.
CreditKarma.com is one service that offers free ongoing service and will not ask you for a credit card. Their information is pulled from the Experian credit bureau. Many other sites are promoted as free but actually assess a fee after an introductory trial period, so be sure to read the terms carefully before signing up. Also beware of fraudulent sites that take advantage of slightly misspelled urls. These sites may be set up to steal your personal information rather than provide you with reporting services.
Summary of How to Get Free Credit Reports
Now that you understand the importance of monitoring your credit report and how to get free credit reports, it’s time to get started. Request a copy of your report and review it closely for errors or signs that your identity might have been stolen. Contact the credit bureaus to request corrections on any mistakes that you find. For more complicated issues, you may want to contact a credit consultant for further assistance.