YOUR CREDIT MATTERS
Get your free credit report every year
Federal law entitles you to get a free copy of your consumer credit report once a year from each of the big three nationwide consumer reporting agencies.
Obtaining your credit report is free and easy. You can also get your credit score for a reasonable fee from each of the consumer reporting agencies when you order your free credit report online.
HOW TO GET YOUR FREE ANNUAL CREDIT REPORT
Order your free annual consumer credit report from one central source. You can use the central source to order your credit reports from all three consumer reporting agencies one at a time or all at once. You can use any of these three methods to order your free report:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Frequently Asked Questions about your free annual credit report
Where can I get more information? For more about ordering your free annual credit report, see: Federal Trade Commission http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/freereports.shtm.
OTHER TIMES YOU ARE ENTITLED TO A FREE CREDIT REPORT
You are also entitled to a free consumer credit report under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) in some other circumstances:
Request this type of free report from a consumer reporting agency:
How to read your report
Once you receive your report:
Fixing errors on your consumer credit report
Dispute Incorrect Information with a Consumer Reporting Agency
Once the consumer reporting agency receives your dispute, it must take certain steps unless it determines that your dispute is frivolous or irrelevant. The consumer reporting agency must notify the furnisher of the information you are disputing. The furnisher must investigate and report the results of the investigation to the consumer reporting agency. If the furnisher determines that the information you disputed was incomplete or inaccurate, it has to notify all three nationwide consumer reporting agencies. A consumer reporting agency must remove the information if the furnisher does not verify it. Investigations should usually be completed within 30 days.
When the investigation is complete, the consumer reporting agency must provide you an updated copy of your credit report if the dispute results in a change to your report. If you so request, the consumer reporting agency must send notices of any correction to anyone who received your report in the past six months. You can have a corrected copy of your report sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.
If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the consumer reporting agency, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the consumer reporting agency to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. You can be charged a fee for this.
To dispute incorrect information, contact one of the consumer reporting agencies:
CALL: Toll-free number listed at the bottom of your online Equifax Credit Report. Have your 10-digit confirmation number found on your report to speak with a customer services representative.
Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
(Disputes initiated online only)
CALL: 800- 916-8800
MAIL: Follow the instructions at www.transunion.com/corporate/personal/creditDisputes/mail.page
You may also wish to dispute information directly with the furnisher, but your rights are still incomplete if this is the only step you take
A furnisher is prohibited by law from reporting information which is in fact inaccurate after it has been notified by the consumer at the address the furnisher specifies for that purpose that the information is inaccurate. Congress created a new process for you to dispute information that is wrong in your credit report with the person who supplied the wrong information, but only for certain types of disputes. Congress left it to the Federal Trade Commission and the federal banking regulators to identity which types of credit report errors would be subject to this direct dispute right. As of January 2008, the federal regulators still had not finalized the rules identifying these types of disputes, making it unclear at best whether a furnisher has to consider your dispute if you file it only with the furnisher and not with the consumer reporting agency.
Consumers Union recommends that you always file your credit report dispute with the consumer reporting agency. If you plan to include extensive documentation or information, we recommend that you also file the dispute with the business that furnished the erroneous information.
To dispute information with a furnisher, send a letter and keep a copy for your records. You aren’t required to use “return receipt requested,” but you may wish to.
Your dispute should include:
The furnisher is not required to handle a “direct dispute” you file with it until the regulations are finalized. However, a furnisher is required not to report information that is in fact inaccurate after you point that out using the proper address. If you choose to file a dispute directly with the furnisher, be sure to also file your dispute with the consumer reporting agency. Once the consumer reporting agency communicates your dispute to the furnisher, certain legal obligations are imposed on the furnisher.
DON’T TRUST ANYONE WHO SAYS THAT THEY WILL REPAIR YOUR CREDIT RECORD
A credit repair service can’t do anything for you that you can’t do for yourself. In fact, a dispute filed by a credit repair service is less likely to fix your credit report than a dispute you file yourself, because consumer reporting agencies and furnishers of information are allowed to ignore disputes that are “frivolous or irrelevant,“ and they may treat disputes filed by credit repair companies as frivolous. The only way to fix bad credit is to get rid of errors and mistakes, then pay your bills on time and wait for time to pass to dilute the effect of any accurate negative information in your credit file.
DO I NEED TO BUY MY CREDIT SCORE?
Your credit score is different from your credit report. Your credit score is a three-digit number based on your credit history that lenders use to estimate how likely it is that you will pay on time.
A credit score is not included in a consumer credit report – you have to buy it separately.
Frequently asked questions regarding credit scores
Security Freezes and Fraud Alerts
A security freeze allows you to control who has access to your credit report and credit score. A different step, called a fraud alert, tells potential creditors to check with you or at least check the identity of an applicant before opening a new account in your name.
Want to prevent new account ID theft? Place a security freeze on your credit report.
To learn more about what you should do if you are already a victim of identity theft victim, see this information from the nonprofit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse: http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs17a.htm
Suspect you are or might become a victim of fraud or ID theft? File an initial fraud alert.
You can file an "initial fraud alert" on your credit file with a consumer reporting agency if you have a good faith belief that you have been or are about to become a victim of identity theft or other fraud. You can make the request at any one of the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies, and it has to notify the other two agencies. Once you file the initial fraud alert, potential creditors should either call you or take another reasonable step to verify your identity before granting applications for credit in your name.
An initial fraud alert expires after just 90 days unless you renew it, and it does not prevent consumer reporting agencies from giving your credit report to potential creditors. Filing the fraud alert triggers a right to a free copy of your credit report.
Already a victim of fraud or ID theft? File an extended fraud alert.
You can file an “extended fraud alert” with a consumer reporting agency if you have been a victim of identity theft. You will have to provide an identity theft report made to a law enforcement agency. You need only notify one of the three consumer reporting agencies. Once you file an extended alert:
Once you’ve filed an extended fraud alert, creditors are required to call or contact you in another manner you designate before authorizing a new credit account. However, the extended fraud alert does not stop creditors from receiving your credit report or your credit score. If you want to limit access to your credit report and credit score, place a security freeze.
Members of the military on active duty.
If you are away from your usual military duty station, you or your personal representatives can file an active duty alert with any consumer reporting agency. This alert works like the initial fraud alert, but is good for a longer time. If you have this alert in your credit record, potential creditors are required to either contact you or verify your identity before granting credit in your name. The active duty alert also requires consumer reporting agencies to:
The active duty alert if good for 12 months and can be renewed. For more information, visit the FTC website: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/dutyalrt.shtm.
You may have other rights if you have been a victim of identity theft.
Blocking is a special process to stop information resulting from identity theft from being included in your credit report in the future. To block consumer reporting agencies from using or reporting to others any information that is in your file resulting from identity theft, you must provide the consumer reporting agency with:
If the consumer reporting agency grants your request, it must block the information you identify within four business days after it receives your information. The agency has the authority to decline or rescind a block under certain circumstances.
Consumer reporting agency contact information for filing fraud alerts, active duty military alerts, and to request a block of ID theft information
Equifax Information Services
P.O. Box 105069
Atlanta, GA 30348-5069
(Fraud alerts initiated via phone and mail only)
(Fraud alerts initiated via phone and email only)
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
(Fraud alerts initiated via phone and mail only)
Your Credit Matters information is provided by Consumers Union as a guide and is not meant to be legal advice. If you need legal advice, please consult your own attorney.
Consumers Union Financial Services Campaign
Updated: January 9, 2008