Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the national credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, upon request, once every 12 months. FCRA promotes the accuracy and privacy of information in the files of credit reporting companies in the country. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces FCRA with respect to credit reporting companies.
A credit report includes information about where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you have been sued or filed for bankruptcy. National credit reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurance companies, employers, and other companies that use them to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or home rental.
Here are details about your rights under FCRA, which created the Free Annual Credit Report Program.
Q: How do I request my free report?
The three credit reporting companies across the country have set up a central website, a toll-free phone number, and a mail address where you can request your free annual report.
To order, 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. 105281 Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Do not communicate individually with the three credit reporting companies nationwide. They only provide free annual credit reports through yearcreditreport.com, 1-877-322-8228, or by mailing them to the annual credit report request service.
You can request your reports from each of the three national companies to prepare credit reports at the same time, or you can request your report from each company one at a time. The law allows you to request a free copy of your report from every nationwide credit reporting company every 12 months.
A word of caution about “fraudulent” websites
Only one website is permitted to complete requests for the free annual credit report you are entitled to by law: Annualcreditreport.com. Other websites that claim to offer “free credit reports,” “free credit scores,” or “free credit monitoring” are not part of the free annual credit reporting program required by law. In some cases, a “free” product comes with conditions. For example, some sites register you with a supposedly “free” service that becomes a service that you must pay for after a trial period. If you don’t cancel during the trial period, you may inadvertently agree to let the company start charging your credit card fees.
Some “fraudulent” sites use terms such as “free report” in their names; Others have URLs that intentionally misspell yearcreditreport.com in hopes that you will misspelling the name of the official website. Some of these “imposter” sites direct you to other sites that try to sell you something or collect your personal information.
Annualcreditreport.com and credit reporting companies across the country will not send you an email asking for your personal information. If you receive an email, see an ad pop up, or receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from Annualcreditreport.com or any of the three national credit reporting companies, do not reply or click on any links in the message. It might be a scam.
Q: What information do I need to provide to get my free report?
A: You must provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. If you have moved in the past two years, you may need to provide your old address. To keep your file safe, each nationwide credit reporting company may ask you for certain information that no one else knows, such as the amount of your monthly mortgage payments. Each company may request different information from you because the information in their file may come from different sources.
Q: Why would I want a copy of my credit report?
A: Your credit report contains information that affects whether you can get a loan and how much you will have to pay to borrow. You want a copy of your credit report to:
Make sure the information is accurate, complete, and up-to-date before applying for a loan for a major purchase such as a home or car, buying insurance, or applying for a job.
Help protect against identity theft. This is when someone uses your personal information, like your name, Social Security number, or your credit card number, to commit a fraud. Identity thieves can use your information to open a new credit card account in your name. Then when the bills are not paid, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report. Inaccurate information like this could affect your ability to obtain credit, insurance, or even a job.