We should all review our annual credit report to detect and investigate potential signs of credit fraud and prevent further damage to our credit identity. The good news is that consumers can now get free copies of their credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies.
Before I discuss where you can get your free credit reports, I’d like to briefly discuss the credit file review frequency. Preferably, we should review our credit records as changes occur in our credit files. Depending on the types of solutions that credit monitoring services provide, you can subscribe to automated services for a monthly fee that alert you of changes in your credit files, public records or medical records. Once you receive the change notifications, you can then access your records online and validate the changes as they might be related to your own activities, otherwise, you should promptly investigate the suspicious changes. If however, you decide not to subscribe to a file or record change notification service, you should consider reviewing your credit files on a periodic basis although the process can be time consuming and can still cost you money for accessing your files. In such a case, I recommend that you review your files, especially your credit files, at least annually.
Now that we established the need to review credit files at least annually, I’d like to show you why and where you can get your credit files for free every year. Due to the rise of identity theft and the increasing risks to consumers’ identities, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) was implemented to establish and enforce certain business requirements and consumer rights which among other things state that consumers can request and obtain a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies. (For other FACTA requirements please refer to this page.)
Consumers can obtain their free credit reports online if they have access to the Internet or by mail and phone. As a result of the FACTA creation and the need to comply with Federal laws, the annual credit report .com website was created by the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies; Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, to allow consumers to centrally request annual credit reports from all three agencies once every year free of charge. The www.AnnualCreditReport.com website provides consumers with the secure means to print their credit reports from the Internet. If consumers don’t have access to a computer or the Internet, they can also request their credit reports by phone or by mail. To apply and request credit reports by phone, consumers can call 1-877-322-8228 and the request should be processed within 15 days. Please visit the resources page for access to credit report agency website and address for mail requests which will also take 15 days to process. Although phone and mail requests are available, I personally prefer the online process as I immediately get access to my credit reports within minutes. Therefore, I strongly recommend getting access to an internet connected computer and making your request online.