A credit report tells your story. All the accounts you have with a lender are listed with information like the date when you opened the account, what your credit limit is, how much you’ve paid, outstanding balance, whether you’ve been late and the like. There’s also a portion of the report that reveals who has accessed your credit report within the last to years, including those that are “voluntary”, meaning they were done so at your request for credit or “involuntary” when lenders ordered your report, for example if a lender wanted to make a pre-approved credit offer in the mail.
The information in your credit report is also used to create your credit score. Those three digits are vital. While 700 is considered good, 750 and above is better still. Credit scores can be used in a variety of ways, in combination with other factors, for example, like helping a lender determine what interest rate to charge you, or what premium an insurer will charge you.
Monitor your credit report
For sure you want to know what’s in your credit report, not only to correct any errors, but to detect any activity that isn’t yours. The good news is, you can get your credit report free. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.
The three nationwide credit reporting companies have a central website, a toll-free telephone number, and a mailing address through which you can order your free annual report.
To order, visit annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228. Or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Do not contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies individually. They are providing free annual credit reports only through annualcreditreport.com, 1-877-322-8228 or mailing to Annual Credit Report Request Service.
You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies at the same time, or you can order your report from each of the companies one at a time. The law allows you to order one free copy of your report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies every 12 months.
Don't get duped
The importance of credit reports hasn’t gone unnoticed by scammers. According to the Federal Trade Commission, only one website is authorized to fill orders for the free annual credit report you are entitled to under law — annualcreditreport.com. Other websites that claim to offer “free credit reports,” “free credit scores,” or “free credit monitoring” are not part of the legally mandated free annual credit report program. In some cases, the “free” product comes with strings attached. For example, some sites sign you up for a supposedly “free” service that converts to one you have to pay for after a trial period. If you don’t cancel during the trial period, you may be unwittingly agreeing to let the company start charging fees to your credit card. Some of these “imposter” sites direct you to other sites that try to sell you something or collect your personal information.
Annualcreditreport.com and the nationwide credit reporting companies will not send you an email asking for your personal information. If you get an email, see a pop-up ad, or get a phone call from someone claiming to be from annualcreditreport.com or any of the three nationwide credit reporting companies, do not reply or click on any link in the message. It’s probably a scam. Forward any such email to the FTC at firstname.lastname@example.org.