Consumer Protection: Free Credit Reports
A credit report contains information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you've been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide, three consumer reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union) 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.
Because your credit report can have a major impact on your well-being, it is wise to review it annually to make sure it contains only accurate information. This review will also detect any possibility of identity theft. For example, if your report shows credit accounts that you did not open; that's a clue to ID theft. You may order one, two or all three reports at the same time. Or you may want to stagger your requests for reports as a way to track the changes in your file over the year. Just remember that you are entitled to receive one free copy per year of your credit report from each of the three national credit reporting agencies.
The three nationwide credit reporting companies have established a central website, toll-free telephone number, and mailing address through which you can order your free annual report. Annual free reports are not available by contacting the three companies individually, but only through the central process:
By phone: 877-322-8228
By mail: Complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Obtain the form here.
To request a credit report, you need to provide the following information:
- Address (current and past 2 years)
- Social security number
- Date of birth
The credit reporting agency may also ask you for some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment.
Avoid Fraudulent Inquiries
http://www.annualcreditreport.com/ is the only authorized source for your free credit report. These nationwide consumer reporting companies will not call you or send an email asking for your personal information. If you get a phone call or an email, or see a pop-up ad claiming it's from one of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies, do not reply or click on any link in the message--it's probably a scam. Report such incidents to the Federal Trade Commission's database of deceptive spam at http://www.ftc.gov/credit/ or call 1-877-382-4357.
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