Fair Credit Reporting Act Guarantees Consumers Free Annual Report with No Strings Attached
There are several compelling reasons to check your credit reports: To verify your financial health, ensure the accuracy of your credit information on file and prevent problems caused by identity theft.
Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumers are entitled to receive a free credit report every twelve months from each of the three national credit reporting agencies – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.
Connecticut Better Business Bureau President, Paulette Scarpetti, recommends staggering the process throughout the year.
“Consumers can keep an eye on their credit reports by requesting one every four months, rather than checking with all three bureaus at one time. This can help you track any changes or new credit information.”
Many television advertisements and websites claim to offer “free credit reports,” “free credit scores” or “free credit monitoring.” However, BBB reminds consumers that the only federally-authorized source for no-strings-attached free credit reports is http://www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
A credit report is different than a credit score. A credit report is a snapshot of your credit use history that gives lenders a view of whether you pay back your debts, how many lines of credit are open or closed and how much credit is available to you. A credit score however, is a number that shows lenders how much of a risk you are in terms of paying back a debt.
BBB offers these tips for obtaining your annual credit reports:
- If you get an e-mail or see a pop-up ad claiming it’s from AnnualCreditReport.com or any of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies, do not reply or click on any link in the message. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com directly to request your free annual credit report either by secure website, phone or email. The website does not solicit consumers via email, telemarketing or direct mail.
- Request your child’s credit report. As child identity theft is a growing national problem, it is vital that you quickly identify any signs of unusual activity. The credit reporting agencies do not knowingly maintain credit files on minor children however, you may contact them directly to put together a report.
- Avoid companies that claim they can improve your credit for free. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cautions consumers to be wary of companies that make claims regarding credit repair. These businesses, commonly referred to as credit “clinics,” don't do anything that consumers cannot do themselves at little or no cost. Beware of any organization that offers to create a new identity and credit file for you. For more information on the risks of using these kinds of services, visit http://www.ftc.gov.
- Dispute any inaccuracies on your credit report. Incorrect or derogatory information can lower your credit score and may indicate possible fraudulent activity. If you find information that you believe is inaccurate, you have the right to dispute it free of charge. Go directly through the reporting agency you pulled your report from to file your dispute.
Your credit reports also list contact information for companies with which you have a line of credit or credit account, such as retailers. This can help you close any accounts you no longer use.
To check the reliability of a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit http://www.ct.bbb.org.