September marks the first anniversary of every consumer’s right to a free annual credit report from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Consumers can order reports online at www.annualcreditreport.com, or by calling toll-free at 1-877-322-8228, or by mailing a completed Annual Credit Report Request Form (available at www.ftc.gov) to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
As mandated by Congress in the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, consumers are entitled to a free copy of their credit report, at their request, from each of the three companies once every 12 months. Access to the free reports was phased in across the country last year; every area was eligible as of September 1, 2005. Consumers may order free reports from all three companies at the same time, or stagger their requests over the course of the year.
Persons ordering online must provide their name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. If you have moved in the last two years, you may have to give your previous address. To maintain the security of your file, each nationwide consumer reporting company also may ask you for information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment. Each company may ask you for different information. That’s because the information each company has in your file may come from different sources.
The only authorized Web site for the program is www.annualcreditreport.com. Some Web sites offer a supposedly “free” service that converts to one that requires a fee after a trial period ends. Some bogus Web sites have “free” in their name; others misspell the name of the official Web site, hoping consumers’ typing errors will lead them to Web sites that try to sell things or collect personal information. To avoid mistyping the name, click on the annual credit report link on the FTC’s website (www.ftc.gov).
E-mails and pop-up ads claiming to be from annualcreditreport.com or any of the three companies are probably scams. Such e-mail should be forwarded to the FTC’s spam database at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
For more information, see the FTC publication, “Your Access to Free Credit Reports.”
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/ftc/complaint.htm. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.