By US federal law, each of the 3 major credit bureaus is required to provide people with one free copy per year of their annual credit report (though not their credit score) upon request. The three major consumer reporting credit companies (CRC) are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. It is important to review this information not only to track and improve their financial health, but also to ensure against fraud and identity theft.
By law they are also entitled to receive a free copy of their credit report if they have been denied or turned down for credit. The company they applied for credit through must provide them with the name and contact information of the credit bureau they obtained the information from.
Where does one go to get a free annual report?
There are numerous websites offering services for free annual credit reports, but these sites are not really free according to the Office of the Attorney General. The only ways to get free credit reports without any strings attached are: by mail, after completing the Annual Credit Report Request Form available online at the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) website: http://www.ftc.gov/freereports; by telephone, calling this toll free number 877-322-8228; and online by going to www.annualcreditreport.com.
The free annual report contains a collection of sensitive personal and financial information gathered from a variety of sources including personal information (birth information, current and other recent addresses, telephone numbers and Social Security information), detailed credit history (loans, credit cards and timeliness of payments), public records (bankruptcies, judgments, liens, etc.), and a list of all persons or organizations who have requested a copy of your credit report in the last six months. The report may also contain a statement of disputes made by the person or by the creditors on their respective credit reports.
When one receives a free annual report, be sure to check each section carefully and determine whether all the information is correct. The report could alert one to fraudulent activity being carried on in their name by an ID thief or other inaccurate information that could affect their ability to obtain a loan.
Reviewing credit reports can help detect fraudulent activity early, allowing one to take effective steps to limit the problems if one is a victim of identity theft. Knowing what’s in the free annual credit report before applying for a loan or a job may also be helpful.