How do I Order My Free Credit Reports?
Now everyone can view their credit report for free. A recent amendment to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.
The FCRA promotes the accuracy and privacy of information in the files of the nation’s consumer reporting companies. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the FCRA with respect to consumer reporting companies.
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 consumer 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. There are three major nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union.
Consumers in Western states were first able to order their credit reports under the federal law beginning in 2004. Consumers in other states were able to order their copies according to the regional roll-out detailed below. Here are the most frequently asked questions and the answers.
- How do I know when I’m eligible to get a free report?
- How do I order my free report?
- What information do I have to provide to get my free report?
- Why would I want to get a copy of my credit report?
- How long does it take to get my report after I order it?
- Are there any other situations where I might be eligible for a free report?
- Should I order a report from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies?
- Should I order my reports from all three of the nationwide consumer reporting companies at the same time?
How do I know when I’m eligible to get a free report?
Free reports will be phased in during a nine-month period, rolling from the West Coast to the East beginning December 1, 2004. Beginning September 1, 2005, free reports will be accessible to all Americans, regardless of where they live.
Consumers in the Western states — Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming —can order their free reports beginning December 1, 2004.
Consumers in the Midwestern states — Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin — can order their free reports beginning March 1, 2005.
Consumers in the Southern states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas — can order their free reports beginning June 1, 2005.
Consumers in the Eastern states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia — the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and all U.S. territories can order their free reports beginning September 1, 2005.
How do I order my free report?
The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have set up one central website, toll-free telephone number, and mailing address through which you can order your free annual report. To order, click on Annual Credit Report’s website, call 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 consumer reporting companies individually. They are only providing free annual credit reports through that site, 877-322-8228, and Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies at the same time, or you can order from only one or two. The law allows you to order one free copy from each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies every 12 months.
What information do I have to provide to get my free report?
You need to provide 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 consumer 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. www.annualcreditreport.com is the only authorized source for your free annual credit report from the three nationwide consumer reporting companies.www.annualcreditreport.com and the nationwide consumer reporting companies will not send you an email asking for your personal information.
Why would I want to get a copy of my credit report?
You may want to review your credit report:
- because the information it contains affects whether you can get a loan —and how much you will have to pay to borrow money.
- to make sure the information is accurate, complete, and up-to-date before you apply for a loan for a major purchase like a house or car, buy insurance, or apply for a job.
- to 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.
Why would I want to get a copy of my credit report?
If you request your report online at www.annualcreditreport.com, you should be able to access it immediately. If you order your report by calling toll-free 877-322-8228, your report will be processed and mailed to you within 15 days. If you order your report by mail using the Annual Credit Report Request Form, your request will be processed and mailed to you within 15 days of receipt.
Whether you order your report online, by phone, or by mail, it may take longer to receive your report if the nationwide consumer reporting company needs more information to verify your identity.
There may be times when the nationwide consumer reporting companies receive an extraordinary volume of requests for credit reports. If that happens, you may be asked to re-submit your request. Or, you may be told that your report will be mailed to you sometime after 15 days from your request. If either of these events occurs, the nationwide consumer reporting companies will let you know.
Are there any other situations where I might be eligible for a free report?
Under federal law, you’re entitled to a free report if a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment, and you ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the consumer reporting company. You’re also entitled to one free report a year if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; if you’re on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft. Otherwise, a consumer reporting company may charge you up to $9.50 for another copy of your report within a 12-month period.
To buy a copy of your report, contact:
- Trans Union
Under state law, consumers in Colorado, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Vermont already have free access to their credit reports.
Should I order a report from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies?
It’s up to you. Because nationwide consumer reporting companies get their information from different sources, the information in your report from one company may not reflect all, or the same, information in your reports from the other two companies. That’s not to say that the information in any of your reports is necessarily inaccurate; it just may be different.
Should I order my reports from all three of the nationwide consumer reporting companies at the same time?
You may order one, two, or all three reports at the same time, or you may stagger your requests. It’s your choice. Some financial advisors say staggering your requests during a 12-month period may be a good way to keep an eye on the accuracy and completeness of the information in your reports.