A few years back, I had attempted to obtain a copy of my credit report. This was shortly after the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 had been signed into law. If you’re not familiar with this law, it requires the three major credit reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax, and Trans-Union—to provide you with 1 free copy of your credit report a year upon request.
But when I had tried to obtain a copy of my credit reports online during the early years of this then new law, I had found it was a case of if being easier-said-than-done. One of these agencies wanted me to provide them with a list of the creditors that I owed, which was a ridiculous requirement seeing as how my entire purpose for getting a copy of my report was that I was trying to find out everyone I owed money to. Another used a loophole in marketing and hard salesmanship to—although the credit report itself was “free”—force me to check a box as a requirement to obtaining a copy of my report; the checked box was a forced agreement to try a trial subscription to a credit monitoring service for a monthly fee if it’s not cancelled in short order.
The first thing I thought about in dealing with this insanity was the old French proverb, “The only free cheese is found in a mousetrap.”
Whether they intend to or not, many of us are actually paying to get a copy of our individual credit reports, which by law are supposed to be given once a year for free when you ask. According to the Federal Trade Commission's 2006 Identity Theft Survey Report, 78% of people surveyed paid to obtain a copy of their “free” credit reports. Given my own experiences, I can see how and why that's more possible than not.
So, how do you get the free kind of credit report? You can go to AnnualCreditReport.com, call 877-322-8228 or fill out the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service,
P.O. Box 105281,
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
These are the only official channels to make a request for a free annual credit report. But if you're looking to get a copy of your credit report, financial experts are warning you to avoid the numerous websites that look to offer free reports, but then invite you to buy other related services. A 2007 Consumer Reports analysis found that out of 24 such sites, 9 were owned by or closely connected to TransUnion; 8 were either owned by or connected to Experian. Among such sites—many with the word “free” in their site domain name are:
The best advice is to just simply do your homework, and avoid jumping on to the first website that appears to offer you the change to obtain your entitled free credit report. Don’t be the mouse in the trap.