The Facts of Free Credit Reports

If you’ve ever applied for a credit card, a personal loan, or insurance a file was created about you. It is known as your credit report. It is full of information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued or arrested, or even filed for bankruptcy. Credit reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses with a legitimate need for it. They use the information to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or a lease.

Having a good credit report means it will be easier for you to get loans and lower interest rates. Lower interest rates usually translate into smaller monthly payments.

Newspapers, radio, TV, and the Internet are full of ads for companies and services that promise to remove negative information in your credit report for a fee. Those who run these ads not only don’t deliver — they can’t deliver. Only time, a deliberate effort, and a plan to repay your bills will improve your credit as it’s detailed in your credit report.

According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) here are facts to common questions regarding credit reports:

You have the right to know what’s in your report but you have to ask. Credit companies have to disclose to you everything in your report. They also have to provide you a list of everyone who has requested your report within the past year — or the past two years if the requests were related to employment.

Credit reporting companies collect and sell four basic types of information:

  • Identification and employment information: Your name, birth date, Social Security number, employer, and spouse’s name are common. Credit reporting companies may also provide information about your employment history, home ownership, income, and previous address if a creditor asks.
  • Payment history: Your accounts with different creditors are listed, showing how much credit has been extended and whether you’ve paid on time. Related events, such as the referral of an overdue account to a collection agency, also may be noted.
  • Inquiries: Credit reporting companies must maintain a record of all creditors who have asked for your credit history within the past year, and a record of individuals or businesses that have asked for your credit history for employment purposes for the past two years.
  • Public record information: Events that are a matter of public record, such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, or tax liens, may appear in your report.

Now this is how you get your “Free Credit Report”. Under the Free File Disclosure Rule of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act), each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months if you ask for it.

How to I order your Free Credit Report

The three nationwide credit reporting companies are use one website, toll-free telephone number and mailing address for you to order your annual free credit report. Go to or call 1-877-322-8228. You can also complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and address it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You can’t contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies individually. You may order your free credit report from each of the credit reporting companies at the same time, or you can order them one at a time. The law allows you to order one free credit report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies every 12 months.

Information you 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 credit 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.

Still, is the only authorized online source for your free annual credit report from the three nationwide credit reporting companies. Neither the website nor the companies will call you first to ask for personal information or send you an email asking for personal information. If you get a phone call or an email — or see a pop-up ad claiming it’s from (or a nationwide credit reporting company) it could be scam.

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