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Sun, Apr 11, 2010 9:16 pm

Getting Free Credit Reports

You can get a free credit report from the 3 major credit reporting companies, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian through www.annualcreditreport.com. You will need to provide your Social Security Number (SSN). From that site you can go to the 3 reporting companies one by one and get a report from each.

You are entitled to one free report from each nationwide credit reporting company per year. It is entirely your choice whether you order all three credit reports at the same time or order one now and others later. The advantage of ordering all three at the same time is that you can compare them. However, you will not be eligible for another free credit report from the Central Source, i.e., through annualcreditreport.com, for 12 months. On the other hand, the advantage of ordering one now and others later (for example, one credit report every four months) is that you can keep track of any changes or new information that may appear on your credit report. Remember, you are entitled to receive one free credit report through the Central Source every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – so if you order from Yonly one company today you can still order from the other two companies at a later date.

You can't get a free credit score, which is a mathematical algorithm that is used to evaluate information in an individual's credit file. A credit score is used by a lender to help determine whether a person qualifies for a particular credit card, loan, or service. Most credit scores estimate the risk a company incurs by lending a person money or providing them with a service — specifically, the likelihood that the person will make payments on time in the next two to three years. Generally, the higher the score, the less risk the person represents. You can opt to pay for the credit score, if you choose.

There are lots of services that purport to give you free credit reports that can actually prove to be quite costly. The way they work is that you get a "free" report by providing a credit card to pay for a monthly credit monitoring service. The trick is that the companies can make it almost impossible for you to cancel the service, so you may pay $80 or more a year for the "free" service. Just because you see it advertised on TV, don't think the company advertised won't try that trick.

E.g., the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged freecreditreport.com with deceiving consumers. I've included information from FTC Sues Imposter Web Sites Offering "Free Credit Reports below:

How consumers were deceived. Consumerinfo.com and freecreditreport.com advertised "free credit reports," but failed to inform consumers that they were automatically signing up for credit report monitoring services and would be charged $79.95 if they did not cancel within 30 days. The FTC also charged that the web site freecreditreport.com failed to inform consumers that it was not associated with the official annual free credit report program established by recent amendments to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Consumers were drawn to Consumerinfo.com and freecreditreport.com web sites through radio, television, e-mail and Internet ads promising free credit reports and free monitoring services. In some cases, consumers were led to the sites through an Internet search for terms such as "free credit report," "free credit score," and "free credit history." Consumers who visited the sites were required to supply a great deal of personal information in addition to a valid credit card number. When membership was not cancelled within 30 days, credit card accounts were charged.

For Experian, to return to your report in the near future, log on to www.experian.com/consumerExperian and select “View your report again” or “Dispute” and then enter the report number provided when you first view the report. The experian site offers a service called VantageScore® that currently charges you $7.95 to get your credit score. TransUnion offers the credit score for $14.95, but you have to sign up for a monthly service.

References:

  1. FTC Sues Imposter Web Sites Offering "Free Credit Reports"
    Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
  2. The Federal Trade Commission's Information on Free Annual Credit Reports
    Federal Trade Commission
  3. Can You Really Get a Free Credit Report -- Without Getting Scammed?
    Scambusters.org
  4. The credit score rating scale; range
    The Credit Scoring Site

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