BOSTON (CBS) – There is a law in place that 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 credit reporting companies.
You can also do it by calling their 800 number (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.
A new credit reporting regulation went into effect on January 1, 2011. It is the Risk-Based Pricing rule. The common practice of giving less favorable credit terms to those higher risk consumers is known as risk-based pricing.
The new rule states that when a lender decides to extend you credit based on your credit score and/or credit report, they must send you a notice when the credit terms you received are less favorable than those offered to other consumers. Further information about the Risk-Based Pricing rule can be found on the Federal Trade Commission’s web site.
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 may 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. If you find errors on your report you will need to fix them.
One more thing: If you have teenagers check their credit history. Identity theft doesn’t just happen to grownups! Anyone with a social security number is vulnerable.