Monitoring your credit history is an important habit to foster. Credit can affect many parts of your life, from getting loans to applying for credit cards to employment. Plus, frequent credit-checking can give you a heads up if your identity is stolen. As such, it’s wise to keep eye on what’s going on in your sphere of the credit world.
This is where AnnualCreditReport.com comes in, paving the way for you to access your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus. Luckily, the service is a free (and federally-approved!) way of checking your credit reports once every year. Read on below to find out how AnnualCreditReport.com works!
What Is AnnualCreditReport.com?
AnnualCreditReport.com is a website where you can request credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The website’s service was mandated in 2003 by the federal government as part of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA). This act amended the Fair Credit Reporting Act’s (FCRA) consumer rights law, which was enacted in 1970.
Under FACTA, you’re able to request each of the three reports once every 12 months. AnnualCreditReport.com is authorized by the federal government to provide users with the ability to request those reports. The site is maintained by Central Source, LLC and is sponsored by Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Just so we’re on the same page, AnnualCreditReport.com’s homepage should look like this:
There are similar websites out there that advertise similar features and have similar names. However, AnnualCreditReport.com is the only site authorized by the federal government to deliver free credit reports.
How To Get Your Report
Getting your report through AnnualCreditReport.com is a fairly easy and mostly harmless process. Here is a step-by-step guide to requesting your report from AnnualCreditReport.com:
- Once you’ve loaded AnnualCreditReport.com’s home page, click “Request your free credit reports”.
- You’ll then need to fill out a form that includes various data about yourself, including your name, birthdate, Social Security number, and address.
- After entering your personal details, you can choose to request one, two, or three reports.
- Each report will require a different approval process; however, you’ll generally be asked a set of personal security questions. Note that you’ll be directed away from AnnualCreditReport.com and will complete the process on each credit bureau’s own website.
- After you’ve generated your reports, you’ll be able print them or save them to your computer.
If, for whatever reason, you are unable to request your report online, you have two more options:
Request by phone
The next quickest option is by phone. You’ll need to call 1-877-322-8228 and go through the verification process over the phone. You should receive your report through the mail within 15 days.
Request by mail
You can also send your request via the good old-fashioned postal mail. To do this, you’ll need to download a request form through AnnualCreditReport.com. Once you fill out the form, mail it to this address:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
What To Look For When You Get Your Reports
With so much information, your credit report might be confusing at first glance. Between numerous accounts and numerous payments on those accounts, there’s simply a lot of stuff to go over. To help you on your way, here are a few of the key things to look out for when you peruse your report:
- Accounts you don’t own or didn’t authorize. This is the big one. If you notice an account you didn’t sign up for, it could mean someone has stolen your data and is using it for fraud.
- Incorrect data, such as misspelled names or addresses, or other inconsistencies like wrong opening dates for accounts. If the information you see is incorrect, you’ll need to reach out the bureau with the problematic information (see below).
- Negative information. If you spot something negative, you’ll want to understand how you might be able to correct this. Negative marks on your credit history could impact your ability to sign up for credit cards or take out loans.
- Negative information that shouldn’t be included because it’s too old. For instance, bankruptcies older than seven years should be dropped from the report. Again, you’ll need to reach out to the bureau in question to correct the error.
What To Do If You Find Mistakes
If you spot an error on a credit report, you’ll need to file a dispute with the credit bureau in question via regular mail or the organization’s online reporting tools. Note that it may take up to 30 days for a bureau to investigate the dispute, plus you’ll need to wait two weeks for them to contact you with the results. With this in mind, it may take up to 45 days before you find out the results of your dispute.
For a deeper dive into how to dispute errors, visit the Merchant Maverick article on the subject.
Are There Disadvantages To Using This Service?
As to be expected, things aren’t all peachy when it comes to using AnnualCreditReport.com. Here are a couple of things to look out for (although they really shouldn’t stop you from using the service):
- AnnualCreditReport.com only provides a service for getting credit reports — not credit scores. If you’re after your score, you’ll need to check out a free credit score site.
- Credit bureaus have longer to respond to disputes.
- Once you’ve gone through the approval process, you may see offers from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. These offers are not necessary to view your credit report and should probably be ignored (unless they make sense you personally).
- Reports can only be accessed once every 12 months. This certainly is a downside; however, there are plenty of other services out there that can help you monitor your credit report on a more frequent basis.
All told, AnnualCreditReport.com is an excellent tool — despite any potential negatives. It lets you check your credit reports annually, helping you spot if anything is amiss before things get too out of hand. If you haven’t already signed up through AnnualCreditReport.com, it’s highly recommended that you do so at some point in the future.
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