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You are entitled to a free credit report starting on December 1, 2004. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) 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.
To avoid overwhelming the credit bureaus, the FACT Act will allow a free annual credit report to be available to consumers according to a staggered roll-out schedule according to your state of residence:
A credit report 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.
Here are the details about your rights under the FCRA and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act, which established the free annual credit report program.
Q: How do I order my free annual credit report?
A: The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have set up a central website, a toll-free telephone number, and a mailing address through which you can order your credit report. They are providing free annual credit reports only through annualcreditreport.com, 1-877-322-8228, and Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
You may order your free credit report from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies at the same time, or you can order your report from each of the companies one at a time. The law allows you to order one copy of your free annual credit report from each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies every 12 months.
A: You 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 consumer 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.
A: Your credit report has information that affects whether you can get a loan and how much you will have to pay to borrow money. You want a copy of your credit report to:
A: If you request your report online at annualcreditreport.com, you should be able to access it immediately online. 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.
Whether you order your report online, by phone, or by mail, it may take longer to receive your report if the nationwide consumer reporting company needs more information to verify your identity.
A: Under federal law, you're entitled to a free report if a company takes adverse action against you such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment and you ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the consumer reporting company.
You're also entitled to one free report a 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. Otherwise, a consumer reporting company may charge you up to $9.50 for another copy of your report within a 12-month period.
Under state law, consumers in Colorado, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Vermont already have free access to their credit reports.
A: It's up to you. Because nationwide consumer reporting companies get their information from different sources, the information in your report from one company may not reflect all, or the same, information in your reports from the other two companies.
A: You may order one, two, or all three reports at the same time, or you may stagger your requests. It's your choice. Staggering your requests during a 12-month period may be a good way to keep an eye on the accuracy and completeness of the information in your reports.
A: 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.
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 under the FACT Act.) 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.
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.
And if you are correct that is, if the information is found to be inaccurate the information provider may not report it again.
A: If an investigation doesn't resolve your dispute with the consumer reporting company, you can ask that a statement of the dispute (of 100 words or less) be included in your file and in future reports.
You also can ask the consumer reporting company to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. You can expect to pay a fee for this service.
If you tell the information provider that you dispute an item, a notice of your dispute must be included any time the information provider reports the item to a consumer reporting company.
A: A consumer reporting company can report most accurate negative information for seven years and bankruptcy information for 10 years.
There is no time limit on reporting information about criminal convictions; information reported in response to your application for a job that pays more than $75,000 a year; and information reported because you've applied for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance.
Information about a lawsuit or an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer.
A: The FCRA specifies who can access your credit report. Creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use the information in your report to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home are among those that have a legal right to access your report.
A: Your employer can get a copy of your free annual credit report only if you agree. A consumer reporting company may not provide information about you to your employer, or to a prospective employer, without your written consent.
A: No your credit score is not part of your free annual credit report. If you would like your credit score as part of your free annual credit report, you will be offered the opportunity to purchase it online.
You are entitled to a free annual credit report starting on December 1, 2004. Get Yours Today!
To order your free credit reports from one or all national consumer reporting companies, visit: www.annualcreditreport.com
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Disclosure: I am an independent Credit Repair Cloud™ Affiliate, not an employee. I receive referral payments from Credit Repair Cloud. The opinions expressed here are my own and are not official statements of Credit Repair Cloud.