You may have seen the ads telling you where you can get copies of your consumer credit reports for free. Read the fine print and you will see that there is some sort of catch with these ads that will ultimately cost you money. You don’t need to pay for your reports no matter what someone else says. Let’s take a look at how you can really and truly get copies of your credit reports for free.
Thanks to an amendment made to the Fair Credit Reporting Act in 2003, Congress authorized the Federal Trade Commission to mandate that copies of your credit report be made available to you for free. Previously, in order to secure your report, you would have had to pay a fee. As of September 2005, residents of all fifty states are now eligible to obtain a free copy of their credit report from Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax once per year.
So, why were the reports made available at no charge to consumers? Well, even though all three companies operate independently from the government, combined they carry so much weight in determining your credit standing – and your very livelihood – that a decision was made that everyone should have access to their personal reports on demand. Furthermore, since a significant number of these reports have been determined to contain errors, consumer advocates insisted that you shouldn’t have to pay to correct someone else’s mistakes. Enter the Fair Credit Reporting Act as amended in 2003.
There are several ways you can order your free credit reports, but there is only one web site that will give you your reports for free: http://www.annualcreditreport.com. Again, only this one site acts on behalf of Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union to give you your reports to you for free.
You can also call the following toll free number to order your free credit reports: 1-877-322-8228
If you wish, you can place your request in writing after downloading and filling out a form found online at [http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/include/requestformfinal.pdf]. If you choose this method, you will need to mail the form to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
For more information about the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Federal Trade Commission, please visit the following site: [http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/freereports.htm]
When ordering your reports you can also request your FICO score. Unlike your free credit report, you will pay a small fee – typically between $5 and $7 – to get your score. If you elect to learn your score you can use a credit card to pay for your transaction. The three national credit reporting bureaus may also attempt to sell other services to you while you are checking off the information for your free credit report. These services include alerts, but you probably won’t need them. If you select some of the other offers, you will be charged for the service, so be careful what you pick.
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