The three major credit bureaus are required by federal law to provide you with one free copy of your credit report per year. Just make sure you go to the right website to order them.
Hop into our musical time machine and let us take you back to a legendary era of sound. No, we’re not talking about the New Orleans Jazz clubs of the 1920s. Nor are we talking about the Beatlemania of the 60s. We’re talking about one of the hottest musical crazes in human history.
We’re talking about the “free credit report” songs of the late 00s. Yes, you could hardly turn on a television without hearing one of the catchy FreeCreditReport.com jingles. The commercial would normally begin with an unfortunate soul in some negative position because they didn’t know what their credit report said. Then you’d get a little song about how easy it is to get a free copy of your credit report at FreeCreditReport.com. Why don’t you see those ads anymore?
Well, unfortunately, FreeCreditReport.com should have been called FreeCreditReportWithASignificantAsterisk.com, as customers who used the site were signed up for credit monitoring services that cost $14.95 a month. Admittedly, that name would be harder to write a song about, but it would also be more accurate.
So how can you avoid misleading credit report sites (and even outright scams) and still get a proper credit report of your own?
There is one website that’s legitimate.
There is one website you can go to if you want your credit report, totally free, once a year.
“It’s very easy to get a no strings attached credit report,” explained attorney Eric Klein. “Simply go to AnnualCreditReport.com and follow the instructions for obtaining a credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies.
“They offer online access to your reports or they will mail them to you via United States Post Office. AnnualCreditReport.com is a truly free way to obtain your credit reports and not be bombarded with advertisements and hundreds of drip emails in your inbox all day.”
By federal law, all three of the major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax—must provide you with a free copy of your credit report once a year, so long as you request one. AnnualCreditReport.com is the site where they make good on that offer.
“There certainly are scams you should avoid and almost every other site out there that offers free credit reports simply wants to obtain your email address and personal data so they can bombard you with advertising,” added Klein.
If you go to any other website—especially ones that have the word “free” splattered across their homepage—the odds are high that you’re getting taken for a ride. Whether they’re selling your personal data or trying to sign up for a separate (and expensive) service, you should steer clear of these sites and stick with the AnnualCreditReport.com.
There are other ways you can get a free credit report.
You can also get your credit report directly from one of the credit bureaus even if you’ve already received your one free credit report for the year. It’ll just require certain conditions to have been met.
“If you have recently been denied credit, send the bureaus the denial letter in addition to a request for an updated credit report and they will send you one,” recommended Nathalie Noisette, owner of Credit Conversion.
“The credit bureaus do this to let you explore the reasons why you may have been denied. If you were denied a job due to your credit, request a form stating so and send it to the bureaus requesting your credit report. The bureaus will send one for free.
“If you’re currently unemployed and are looking for work, let the bureaus know your current situation and they will send you a report. The idea is that if your potential employer is going to be running a credit check, you want to preempt what might be on your report.
“If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, file a police or credit card fraud report and send the information to the bureaus. They will send you updated reports with recent information for you to challenge what accounts may or may not be for you.”
Here’s what you should look for on your report.
So you got a copy of your credit report. What’s actually going to be on it?
“It will provide a summary of your credit history, and certain other information, reported to credit bureaus by your lenders and creditors,” outlined financial coach and author Karen Ford.
But there’s one thing that won’t be on it. Well, more than one thing. It won’t have the scores to last night’s MLB game or a list of the top ten most adorable skateboarding puppies. It actually won’t have a lot of things. But there’s a significant thing you might assume would be on your credit report that won’t be.
“There is a difference between a credit report and your credit score,” clarified Klein. “If you want to obtain your credit score, you’re going to have to go through a company such as Discover for your free FICO score. Again, beware of the email blasts; but Discover is a reputable credit card and if you unsubscribe from their email advertising, they will honor your request.”
But regardless of whether you can see your credit score, you’ll want it to be higher, rather than lower. That’ll provide you with better access to credit at better rates. And you can use the information on your credit report to that end.
“The best way to improve your credit score is to be sure that the total amount of money you carry month-to-month on your credit cards does not exceed 31% of your total available credit on your cards,” suggested Klein.
“Another way, although obvious, to improve your credit score is to be sure that you make your payments timely. Further, another way to improve your credit score is to obtain your three credit reports, go through them, look for any mistakes, and dispute the mistakes you find.
“One should know that there are roughly 19,000,000 mistakes on peoples’ credit reports at any one time, so it is not uncommon that peoples’ credit scores are lower than they should be.”
Hopefully, this post has taught you not to trust every catchy song you hear. Now if you’ll excuse us, we have a coconut with a lime in it, and we need to drink it all up.
Karen Ford is a Master Financial Coach, Public Speaker, Entrepreneur, and Best- Selling Author. Her #1 Amazon Best Selling Book “Money Matters” is a discovery for many. In “Money Matters” she provides keys to demolishing debt, shares how to budget correctly, and gives principles in wealth building.
Eric Klein is the Principal Attorney and President of Klein Law Group, P.A. He has spent over 22 years practicing law and guiding clients through some of the most challenging times of their lives. Although his firm has multiple practice areas of law, most of his clients’ legal needs come at a time in their lives when they are experiencing a major change. Eric pursues his client’s interests zealously and his philosophy of aggressive representation is practiced by all of his associates.
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The information contained herein is provided for free and is to be used for educational and informational purposes only. We are not a credit repair organization as defined under federal or state law and we do not provide "credit repair" services or advice or assistance regarding "rebuilding" or "improving" your credit. Articles provided in connection with this blog are general in nature, provided for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for individualized professional advice. We make no representation that we will improve or attempt to improve your credit record, history, or rating through the use of the resources provided through the OppLoans blog.