BOSTON (CBS) – An amendment to the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the large reporting companies, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, to provide you with an annual free copy of your credit report, at your request.
You can get your free report by logging onto www.annualcreditreport.com. This central site allows you to request a free credit report, once every 12 months from each of the large credit reporting companies.
You can also do it by calling 877-322-8228 or by snail mail but you’ll need to still get online at the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) website to download the form.
You want the Annual Credit Report Request and mail it in to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
It is important to be checking your credit report at least annually. For several reasons. Looking at your credit report is your first line of defense against identity theft. If someone is using your social security number to get a credit card or a loan it will show up on your credit report.
Incorrect information on your report can screw up your credit score and mess with your ability to get a loan or a good interest rate on a mortgage. Insurance companies, potential employers, potential landlords as well as cell phone companies all want to see if you are fiscally responsible and can pay your bills.
I would recommend spreading out your free credit reports by requesting just one every 4 months. Equifax this month, in 4 months Experian and in 8 months Transunion.
Your credit history will be slightly different from each of the reporting agencies for they have access to different data about you. Very few of your creditors report to all three agencies. So you do need to check all three for they don’t share their information.
Over 50% of credit reports do have errors. I think I have finally got mine fixed. It took 2 years to do that. I checked my credit report this week and found only one small error. For the last couple of reports there were problems with getting my address correct.
They had me moving almost every year and living in 8 different places which does not bode well if a creditor is looking for stability.
The source of the errors were my kids. They both attended college in Boston and then lived in Boston after graduation. As college students they moved every year. I was able to correct most of the errors on line rather than using snail mail. If you find errors on your report fix them.
One more thing: If you have teenagers check their credit history. Identity theft doesn’t just happen to grown ups! Anyone with a social security number is vulnerable.