Starting September 1, consumers in 14 East Coast states join the rest of the country in qualifying for a free annual credit report from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The free reports were mandated by Congress in The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA), which requires the nationwide credit bureaus to provide consumers with a free copy of their credit report, at their request, once every 12 months. Consumers who want to access their credit report online can go to www.annualcreditreport.com.
“The right to receive a free credit report is an important new tool for consumers,” said Deborah Platt Majoras, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. “Not only does checking the credit report give consumers a valuable snapshot of their credit histories, it permits them to detect and correct errors, and spot and stop identity theft.”
Credit reports contain consumers’ identification and financial information, including payment history with different creditors, inquiries made by various financial institutions, and information on the public record, such as foreclosures or bankruptcies. Consumer reporting companies collect and sell this information to lenders and other businesses that have a permissible purpose to obtain it.
Access to the free credit reports was phased in across the country in four installments from west to east starting last December. September 1 marks the final phase of the roll-out. Consumers in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and all U.S. territories are now eligible to receive their reports.
Consumers who visit www.annualcreditreport.com to get their free report online should close their Internet browser after obtaining their report to be sure their transaction is secure and their personal information is not at risk. Consumers also may order their free annual credit report by calling toll-free, 1-877-322-8228, or by mailing a completed Annual Credit Report Request Form to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. The form can be downloaded from www.annualcreditreport.com or from the FTC’s Web site. It also can be requested by calling the FTC’s Consumer Response Center at 1-877-FTC-HELP.
Consumers may choose to order free reports from all three nationwide consumer reporting companies at the same time, or stagger their requests over the course of the year. Consumers are eligible to order a free credit report any time – they are not required to submit their request within a certain period of time.
The FTC has issued two new consumer education brochures: Your Access to Free Credit Reports, which explains how consumers can request their credit reports and dispute any errors, and Want a Free Annual Credit Report? The Only Official Website is Annualcreditreport.com, which warns consumers about imposter Web sites. The brochures are available at: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/freereports.htm, and http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/freerepalrt.htm.
For more information, visit www.ftc.gov/credit.
Copies of the consumer publications are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.