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Free Credit Reports

Beginning in 2003, a provision of the New Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, requires the three major credit reporting agencies to provide consumers with a free copy of their own credit report every 12 months. This allows consumers, free of charge, to see what is on their credit report and make sure that everything is accurate. Credit reporting agencies make a lot of money collecting and compiling your credit data and the government felt you should be able to monitor your report at least once a year without having to go out of pocket.

Among the many sources that advertise free credit reports, the most reliable is AnnualCreditReport.com. Here you will get a legitimate and free copy of your credit report; the report only, your score is not included in the deal. Again, the intent of the free credit report is to let you see what is on your report, not to see your score. The bureaus make a lot of money off consumers who want to see their credit report score, so they're not going to give that for free.

You can request a copy of your free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com by phone, by mail or online. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or fill out the Annual Credit Report Request form found on their website and mail it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. It may take a few weeks for your report to arrive, so be patient.

Be careful of other sources that advertise free credit reports. You may get a free credit report, your score may even be included, but you are expected to sign up for a service of some sort; like credit monitoring. Anyone other than AnnualCreditReport.com that offers free reports must display a box saying that you are entitled to a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com which is the only authorized source under federal law.

With AnnualCreditReport.com you can also get a free credit report from all three bureaus with only one request. Or you can request one free report from one bureau every four months. That way you can monitor your reports throughout the year. Keep in mind, however; that your information may vary from bureau to bureau, so you'll need to compare and contrast the three different reports.

Another way you can get a free report is if your application for credit, insurance or employment has been denied and you request your free report within 60 days of receiving notice.

There are a few other ways to get your credit report for free. You are entitled to one free report per year if you're unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days, if you're on welfare, or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud; including identity theft.

Each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies - Experian, Equifax and TransUnion - are required to provide you with a free credit report, at your request, every 12 months. This free annual report does not include scores. If you want to see your scores, you will have to pay for those. You can usually get your scores at a discount if they are ordered in conjunction with your free annual credit report.

Since you are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three main credit reporting agencies each year, you can order all three reports at the same time, or request a copy from each bureau at separate times. The information on your report may vary slightly from each bureau, so it's best to do a side-by-side comparison. You also want to be sureeverything is accurate, complete, and current.

To order your report you'll 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.

When you request your report online at annualcreditreport.com, you should be able to access it immediately. If you order your report by calling toll-free 1-877-322-8228, your report will be processed and mailed to you within 15 days. If you order your report by mail using the Annual Credit Report Request Form, your request will be processed and mailed to you within 15 days of receipt.

Whether you order your report online, by phone, or by mail, it may take longer to receive your report if the nationwide credit reporting company needs more information to verify your identity.