Check Your Credit Report Annually For Free
The fastest way to get your annual free credit report these days is to order and receive it directly online. If you go this route, be prepared: You’ll likely be asked some detailed questions about open accounts on your credit report (including the names of lenders and payment amounts) to make sure you’re ordering your own report and not someone else’s. You can always order your report online even if you have already requested your free copy at annualcreditreport.com without credit scores. For about the same price you pay for the credit scores you can get a new report with free credit scores. There are also some good monitoring services and identity protection services that offer free credit scores with the purchase of their services.
If you order your report by mail, jot down on your calendar when you ordered your credit report. It usually takes about two weeks to get a copy, faster if you’ve ordered it because you’ve just been turned down for credit. Always pay by check, credit card, or by money order so you have a record of receipt. Follow up in about thirty days if you haven’t heard from the credit reporting agency.
When you order your credit report, always be sure to provide very complete information. They want your name (including maiden name, and whether you’re a senior or junior or I, II, or III), spouse’s name, Social Security number, current address and addresses for the past five years, including zip codes, and your year of birth. Providing all the details helps the credit bureaus dig up all the information on you, instead of someone else.
One common frustration under the old credit reporting law was that lenders in many cases wouldn’t show consumers their own credit reports. You could be sitting in front of a banker who was holding your credit report, explaining that it contained negative information, but if you wanted to find out what it actually said, you had to order a copy from the credit bureau and wait until it arrived. This policy originated with the credit bureaus, which strongly discouraged their subscribers from showing people their reports because they often look different from the ones consumers get (full of codes, or formatted in a special way).
The new credit reporting law specifically says that credit bureaus cannot prohibit lenders of credit reports from showing them to consumers if adverse action has been taken by the lender because of information in the report.
The new law includes some additional disclosure rights. You can also get a free credit report if you are unemployed and intend to apply for employment within sixty days, you are a welfare recipient, you believe you are a victim of credit fraud, or you have been notified by a collection agency affiliated with a credit bureau that it has already, or may, report negative information to that credit bureau.