Most people equate getting a credit report with an upcoming credit event; for example, you want to get a loan but before you apply, you want to know how likely it is you’ll get approved.
But today, as the digital freeway has more and more financial transaction traffic, getting your credit report regularly can serve another important purpose by helping you guard against identity theft. Imagine for a minute that you’re a victim of identity theft. Here’s what often happens:
Identity thieves steal your personal information and open credit cards in your name. When they don’t pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report and suddenly you find yourself unable to get a loan or even be hired for that new job.
The good news is that The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. 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 and make you aware of fraudulent charges.
The bottom line is that ordering your credit report at least once a year is a good idea. It’s free. And it’s easy to do. The three nationwide credit reporting companies have set up a central website, a toll-free telephone number, and a mailing address through which you can order your free annual report.
Ordering Your Credit Report
- 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. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
Do not contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies individually. They are providing free annual credit reports only through annualcreditreport.com, 1.877.322.8228 or mailing to Annual Credit Report Request Service.
Tip: If you request your report online at annualcreditreport.com, you should be able to access it immediately.
If you find misinformation in your credit report:
- Tell the credit reporting company in writing what information you think is inaccurate.
- Tell the creditor or other information provider in writing that you dispute an item.
Free credit reports have always been useful in getting credit. Now you can put them to work helping you protect your identity.