If you own a television, you have probably seen one of the many versions of commercials touting the free credit reports. Or as you have browsed the internet, you surely have seen the banner ads with enticing “click here for your free credit report” messages.
The problem is, with so many companies saying that they offer the free reports; I have found that many people don’t know where they are actually supposed to go to get their free reports. But they do know that if they go to those places that are advertising, they are going to be offered something to buy.
The website to use is www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.
Equifax, TransUnion, Experion
Well, I hate to break it to you, but when you go to the official website, the three credit bureaus are going to try to sell you something too. They are going to ask you if you want to buy your scores. Do not buy them. They are not the FICO scores that banks use so the score is not very helpful. Getting the reports; now that is tremendously helpful, so definitely do that once a year.
What to look for on your reports
Make sure that there are no duplicate accounts, errors in information reported, or activity that isn’t yours. For information about identity theft refer to the FTC identity theft website.
Which one to get first
This is my personal preference; I like the summary that Equifax provides at the beginning of the report. If you have not printed your free credit reports before, I suggest printing the Equifax report first and looking over the summary, it is educational as well as informational.
How often to get your Free Annual Credit Reports
You can pull all three at once and be done with it until next year. Or spread it out and get one every four months as a way to monitor your information on an ongoing basis. Just keep in mind that, surprisingly, information can vary from credit bureau to credit bureau so spreading it out does not guarantee that errors will be caught in a timely manner. But if you consistently pull them, any errors will be caught once a year.
For further information see the Federal Trade Commission website for the Free Annual Credit Report.