Keeping tabs on your credit reports can be a great tool for managing your overall financial health. Not only can you see how you are doing, but you can check for erroneous information and also search for possible fraud or identity theft. There are three major credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. They all collect and distribute information about your credit information and history.
Every person is entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major agencies each year. The only way to access this legitimately free credit report is via the Annual Credit Report Service. They can be reached:
- online at www.annualcreditreport.com
- by phone at 877-322-8228
- or by mail at P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, Georgia 30348
In addition to the free annual reports, there are other situations that allow you to obtain free copies of your credit file. Most of these situations require that you submit proof of eligibility to the credit bureau from which you are requesting your information. When can you do this?
- If you are denied credit because of information in your credit report. The creditor will tell you which credit report they used in making their decision. You have sixty days to request your report from that agency.
- If you have a reasonable belief that your credit report contains errors due to fraud, including but not limited to someone using your name, Social Security number, bank information or credit card information. Include an explanation of why you believe this to be true. You can use this option one time per 12 month period for each of the three agencies.
- If you are unemployed and planning to seek work within sixty days, you may request a free copy of your credit report. You must enclose a statement stating that you are unemployed and seeking work. Also include any documentation to support your unemployment, such as a copy of an unemployment benefit statement or layoff notice. You may utilize this benefit one time per credit bureau within every 12 month period.
- If you are receiving public assistance benefits. You must include an explanation and supporting documentation. You may receive one free report each 12 months, from each of the three agencies.
It is relatively important to check your credit report regularly and make sure it is accurate and complete. There are very few times when you should have to pay for your credit report if you know all the ways and causes for obtaining free reports.