Your credit report holds a very important store of information about you. Anytime you apply for a bank loan, a credit card or make major purchases on credit, lenders will take a close look at your credit report to get an idea of your financial status and determine the likelihood of your repaying the loan. You are judged in many ways by the information contained in your credit report, which is why it is important to make sure your report is an accurate reflection of your credit history. Members of Congress recognized the important role credit reports play in the information age and passed a law to allow consumers a free annual credit report from each of the three national credit bureaus.
Congress in 2003 passed the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, which entitles consumers to a free annual credit report from each of the three major reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- once every 12 months. The Federal Trade Commission enforces the regulations pertaining to the credit report law. The FTC requires credit bureaus to keep accurate records and respond to consumer complaints concerning inaccurate items in a credit report.
Ordering Free Credit Reports
Consumers have three methods of ordering their reports. Those with computer access may go online to annualcreditreport.com, a central website set up to give consumers a central location to make requests for their free annual credit reports. The reports also may be obtained by calling 1-877-322-8228 or by mailing a request to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-8228. You must provide your name, address, Social Security number and date or birth. You also should provide your previous address if you have moved in the last two years.
You are not entitled to a free credit score as part of your right to a free annual credit report. You mus pay for your credit score, which is a number from 300 to 850 that lenders use to rate your creditworthiness. Your credit report contains detailed information, such the status of past and present credit accounts and whether they are current or past due by 30, 60 or more than 90 days on any account. It also contains public information such as any liens, judgments, bankruptcies or criminal convictions against you.
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act also gives consumers other rights to free credit reports. If you have denied credit in the last 60 days due to information in a credit report, the act entitles you to a free credit report from the bureau the lender used to make the decision.
Tim Grant has been a journalist since 1989 and has worked for several daily newspapers, including the Charleston "Post & Courier," the "Savannah News-Press," the "Spartanburg Herald-Journal," the "St. Petersburg Times" and the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette." He has covered a variety of subjects and beats, including crime, government, education, religion and business. He graduated from The Citadel with a Bachelor of Science in business administration.