If you were to tell someone that they can have a certain item for free, more than likely their response would be, “what’s the catch?” In the case of credit reports there is no catch, you can now get a free copy of this report through the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnions, and Experian. Let’s take a look at the law and how you can benefit from it.
An amendment to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires the three national credit reporting agencies to provide one free copy of your credit report to you annually. Beginning on December 1, 2004 and culminating on September 1, 2005, the Federal Trade Commission is requiring that these agencies offer reports on a rolling, phase in basis. In other words, on December 1, 2004, if you live in certain western states you became eligible at that time and every three months later additional states were added. By September 1, 2005, residents of all states are eligible.
Fortunately for consumers, you need not contact the three reporting agencies separately to obtain your free credit report. You can order right online at www.annualcreditreport.com; or by calling 877-322-8228; or by completing the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mailing it:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
The form is available online where you can print it out and mail it in: www.ftc.gov/credit.
If you need copies more often, you can contact the three reporting agencies and request copies. You will pay for this service.
To buy a copy of your report, contact:
There are also private companies who will obtain all three copies of your credit report for you as well. There is a fee involved, but you may find their services to be less of a hassle than contacting the three companies separately.
So, how can you benefit from the law? By ordering copies of your reports from the companies on a four month rotating basis. Most consumers will find this plan to be sufficient and it will allow for you to compare/contrast the reports of each agency. Of course, if you already suspect fraud you will want to order all three reports at once and notify each agency to place a "fraud alert" in your credit file.
All in all, the new law is a big win for consumers. Take advantage of this "windfall" as soon as you become eligible to do so.