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Obtaining Your Credit Report

For better or for worse, 21st century consumers have become heavily dependent upon credit as their preferred means of making purchases.  On the other side of the coin, your credit is also how you are evaluated in our credit culture.  Most people recognize that their credit history is checked when they apply for a loan or a credit card, but may not realize that their credit may also be checked for such things as obtaining insurance or when they apply for a job.  In this credit-driven society, it is very important that you build and maintain a good credit history.  One very nice benefit for everyone living in the United States is that they are eligible to obtain a copy of their credit report for free.  The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) signed back in 2003 requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.

Your credit report is a “history” of how you pay your bills. It includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide consumer reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home. Consumers should check their credit history every year to make sure the report is accurate. This not only provides a way to check your credit history, but also helps to protect against identity theft.

There are three ways to obtain your free credit report:

 1. Visit This is the only website authorized to provide you with your free annual credit report.
 2. Call the toll-free number 1-877-322-8228 to request your free copy.
 3. Mail a written request to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

Phone and mail requests usually take approx. 15 days or you can obtain the report immediately by visiting the website. In order to obtain your report, you will be asked to provide the following information to verify your identity and to protect your privacy:

 • Full name
 • Date of Birth
 • Social Security Number
 • Current Address
 • Previous Address (if you’ve moved in the last 2 years)

For security purposes, you will then be asked 3-4 verification questions.  These questions vary from person to person, but examples would be:

 • The name of the company you pay your mortgage to.
 • The amount of your monthly mortgage payment.
 • Then name of the county you live in.
 • The amount of your monthly car payment.

Once you have obtained your credit report you should review it carefully with two main goals in mind:

 1.To verify that the information is accurate, complete, and up-to-date.  This is especially important before you apply for a loan for a major purchase like a house or car, buy insurance, or even apply for a job.

 2.To guard against identity theft.  Identity thieves often use your information to open new credit card accounts in your name. Then, when they don’t pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report. Inaccurate information like that could affect your ability to get credit, insurance, or even a job.

When ordering your credit report, it’s important that you start the request and not simply respond to or give personal information to an email or a pop-up ad or a phone call.  The consumer reporting companies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) or will not send you an email asking for your personal information. If you get an email, see a pop-up ad, or get a phone call from someone claiming to be from or any of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies, do not reply or click on any link in the message. It’s more than likely just a scam.

There is only one website that is authorized to fill orders for the free annual credit report you are entitled to – Other websites that claim to offer “free credit reports”, “free credit scores” or “free credit monitoring” are not part of the legally mandated free annual credit report program. In some cases, the “free” product comes with strings attached. For example, some sites sign you up for a supposedly “free” service that converts to one you have to pay for after a short trial period. If you don’t cancel during the trial period, you may be unwittingly agreeing to let the company start charging fees to your credit card.

I hope that your credit report will be pristine, but if you do find inaccurate information there are steps you can take to correct it.  Under the FCRA, both the consumer reporting company and the information provider (that is, the person, company, or organization that provides information about you to a consumer reporting company) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To take full advantage of your rights under this law, contact both the consumer reporting company and the information provider.

 1.Tell the consumer reporting company, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. Consumer reporting companies must investigate the items in question – usually within 30 days – unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the consumer reporting company, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the consumer reporting company. If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide consumer reporting companies so they can correct the information in your file.

 When the investigation is complete, the consumer reporting company must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. (This free report does not count as your annual free report.) If an item is changed or deleted, the consumer reporting company cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it is accurate and complete. The consumer reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider.

 2. Tell the creditor or other information provider in writing that you dispute an item. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider reports the item to a consumer reporting company, it must include a notice of your dispute. In addition, if you are correct – that is, if the information is found to be inaccurate – the information provider may not report it again.

Filed in: Debt & Credit, Stewardship

One Response to “Obtaining Your Credit Report”

  1. February 13, 2010 at 3:12 am #

    Thank You 4 This Good Read I have heard Free Online Credit Report is a great site to aquire my credit & see my score for nothing. Anybody else tried them?