There is only one website that truly offers free credit reports. The site to make note of is AnnualCreditReport.com. This is a centralized service for consumers to request free annual credit reports. It was created by the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. All other sites offering ‘free’ credit reports will require you to purchase something or sign up for a trial membership (usually to a credit monitoring type service). Through this website you can gain access to all three of your credit bureau reports for free one time per year. You additionally have the right to request a free credit report any time you are denied credit based on information provided by a credit bureau. This site also provides an excellent FAQ section that should clear up almost any question you have about your credit report.
The Process Of Actually Getting Your Hands On Your Credit Report
Obtaining your credit report takes just a few minutes and can actually be provided to you online. Simply go to AnnualCreditReport.com to get started. Most people should be able to retrieve their reports directly over the Internet. A small percentage may have to mail in a letter if the security software determines that it can not verify your identity via the online portal. In either case, the credit reports are completely free.
To contact the national credit bureaus online or by mail:
How To Initiate A Fraud Alert
If you believe that you are currently at risk for identity theft (or have had such problems in the past), you can initiate a fraud alert by calling the credit bureaus. This will make it much more difficult for anyone to obtain credit in your name, since the credit grantor will have to take additional steps to verify your identity prior to approving a new account. You can place an alert in your file for 90 days or request a 7 year alert.
Phone numbers to request a fraud alert:
- Equifax: 1-877-576-5734; www.alerts.equifax.com
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742; www.experian.com/fraud
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com
What To Do With Your Credit Report Once You Receive It
1. Review your personal information (name, address, social security number, etc..) to be sure it is accurate and up to date.
2. Review the inquiries appearing in your file. These are the organizations that have pulled credit on you during the last several months. If there are suspicious inquiries, this can be an early warning sign of identity theft.
3. Review your accounts to be sure that they belong to you and that you don’t have any unknown accounts erroneously listed in your file. My father and I share the same name and find that occasionally our accounts get cross listed. While it may be a simple misunderstanding such as someone with a similar name, you may find out that someone has stolen your identity.
4. Review accounts listed in a negative status to determine if there are inaccuracies. Simply send a letter listing the accounts and your disagreement with the specifics being reported. The credit bureau has 30 days to investigate your dispute. If they are unable to verify the negative information, it must be removed from your report. Most people find at least an item or two that is inaccurate and that they were not even aware of. This can also be done online or over the phone, but I have found that sending a letter will get the best results.
How To Obtain Your Credit Scores
While you are entitled to free copies of your credit reports annually, that does not apply to your credit scores. After you receive your free credit reports, you will receive additional information from the credit bureaus on how to purchase your credit scores. I am not an advocate of doing this, since the credit score you will be given is a 'consumer score' and may vary widely from the credit score a lender receives. This is very confusing but something I ran into regularly when I was operating my own mortgage company. I would routinely have customers bring in their credit scores which were almost always substantially different from the 'real scores' we were provided from the credit bureaus.
I have written a very comprehensive e Book on the topic of credit scoring that is very unique. It contains insider tactics that I learned while operating my own mortgage company in the early 2000's. It is available through the Christian Money.com online store.
How To Quickly Raise Your Credit Score
1. Make your monthly payments not just on time but a few days early.
2. Pay down your balances so that on revolving accounts you are using less than 50% of your available credit line.
3. Be sure to keep at least 3 to 5 credit accounts open. Even if you don't use them, keeping them open will lead to a higher credit score. If necessary, consider utilizing secured credit cards (credit cards that require a deposit and are designed to help building credit).
4. Don't apply for new credit too frequently. One way to drive your score down quickly is to apply for several new accounts within a 30 day period.
Where To Complain About A Credit Bureau
The credit bureaus are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. Use the contact information below to make a complaint if you feel that your rights are being violated.
Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20580
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