Unfortunately, thousands of consumers every year get conned into paying money for their credit reports when the fact is, they are entitled to receive a free copy from each of the major reporting agencies annually. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and states clearly that each of the three major credit bureaus has an obligation to provide these reports free.
Free annual report
Consumers may elect to request their credit reports free via the Internet or may request them in writing. These reports are available any time, however, once every 12 months, they must be provided free of charge at the consumer’s request. For online access, consumers may visit the site set up by the FTC called Annual Credit Report. Consumers who prefer to order their reports by mail may fill out the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it as well. Finally, those who prefer to order by telephone may do so by calling 1-877-322-8228.
Watching out for bogus sites
Sadly, many companies have tried to sell consumers on the idea of protecting their credit with insurance. Many of these sites were touting “free credit reports” in their advertisements. During 2010, the FTC clamped down on these sites and instructed them to make it clear consumers had options. Signing up for ongoing insurance, getting credit alerts or getting a credit score are not necessary for obtaining a free credit report. These supposedly free offers often wind up costing consumers money – a case of free not being free.
For rejected credit or job applicants
Consumers or job seekers who receive a denial notification with an adverse credit reporting agency report being cited as the reason are also eligible for a free copy of their report. This is regardless of whether or not they have already requested their free annual report. When being denied credit or employment based on information obtained from a credit reporting agency, the agency information must be included in the denial letter. It is important to note this must be done within 60 days of receiving such notification.
Other options for free reports
Consumers who have been laid off from their jobs and plan to seek employment within 60 days are also entitled to a free copy of their credit report. Additionally, many welfare recipients are eligible for free reports. These reports may be ordered directly from the agencies by contacting them directly at the following numbers:
Equifax:1-800-685-1111; Experian: 1-888-397-3742; TransUnion: 1-800-916-8800
Consumers should also check their individual state laws regarding their rights under their local consumer protection agencies. In many cases, the state’s Attorney General will have other rules that may help them obtain a free credit report. Consumers may request all three of their reports at one time or may spread them out over the course of the 12 month period. Either way, they provide a means for consumers to keep up-to-date on the status of their credit.