Free Credit Report

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 and the Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to get your credit report free from each major credit bureau once a year. The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, has prepared a brochure. “Your Access to Free Credit Reports,” explains your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and how to order a free annual credit report. You can order your free annual credit report online at http:// www.annualcreditreport.com, by calling 1-877-322-8228, or by completing the Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. When you order, you need to provide your name, address, social security number, and date of birth. To verify your identity, you may need to provide some information that only you would know.

Here is warning from the FTC about imposter sites. The FTC advises consumers who order their free annual credit report online to be sure to correctly spell www.annualcreditreports.com or link to it from the FTC’s web site to avoid being misdirected to other web sites offering supposedly free reports, but only with the purchase of other products.

Credit bureaus, to me, are kind of a necessary evil. You have to deal with them, so you might as well try to understand them. They are a motley group so perhaps I should start at the beginning and give you a basic understanding of what they really are.

First, don’t make the mistake of thinking that credit bureaus are on your side and that they care about your personal credit file. Also it is important to understand that your personal credit file is not, I repeat not, an official government document that is perfectly correct, free of mistakes, and there is no wrongful reporting. Credit bureaus are profit making entities and they are in the business of making money just like any other business on the planet. You can even purchase stock in these agencies if you are so inclined.

Credit bureaus do one thing very well. They make lots of mistakes that cause misery, confusion, and costs of thousands of dollars to millions of consumers. Numerous individual credit files are loaded with inaccurate reporting and wrong information. When you file a dispute regarding incorrect information on your personal file, (more on this later) it will cost the credit bureau to process your dispute, and this will dig into their bottom line. So believe me when I tell you they won’t correct any wrong information on your personal file without you initiating the action to do so.

While it is true that there are federal and state laws in place that protect the consumer, it is still your responsibility to manage your personal credit file. The Federal Trade Commission here in the United States, the state attorney generals, and individual consumers have launched law suits against the credit bureaus for their infraction of these laws. Even though these law suits have cost the credit bureaus millions of dollars, it is just a mere fraction of what they make in profits, it makes better financial sense to pay these law suits, and since they can afford it and it’s less work for them than correcting credit reports, they continue to break the law.

Credit is an area of your financial life that needs continuous updating and tweaking. One reason is for accuracy. Believe me, if you do not care about your credit and credit rating, no one else will either. It is strongly recommended that every credit consumer review their credit report at a minimum of once a year. If you have been denied credit, you can send a copy of that notice to the credit bureau and request your credit report for free. There are three major national credit reporting agencies in the United States, and that is where you will find your personal credit information. Your credit “score” is based on the information they have on file about you.

Your personal and financial information is collected by the bureaus from your creditors who report on how you are paying your debts (pay history), what your balances are, your established credit limits, past or closed accounts, and what type of account it is; mortgage (M), installment such as a auto loan (I), and revolving debt such as credit cards (R). Your credit report will have last known and previous addresses and places of employment. Additionally, your credit report will contain any write-offs, collection accounts, repossessions, bankruptcies, and foreclosures. Judgments such as utility and tax liens are also recorded. Pay histories will be recorded on your file for the most recent 24 months, so any late payments will still be there almost two years from now. Near the end of your report you will see a section called ‘credit inquiries’. Every time you apply for credit an inquiry will be generated and recorded on your file.

The demand for consumer credit reports appear to be at an all time high. More consumers are borrowing more money now than any other time in this country’s history. The credit reporting bureaus are over worked and under staffed. When this happens mistakes are made. In the mortgage business for example, there are so many times when I have counseled a home owner or prospective home owner about their credit, and as I go over each entry on their credit file, I hear all too often, “that’s not my account,” or “I have no idea who that is,” or “I don’t owe them, I paid them off some time ago.”

Here is a classic example.  A few years ago, a young college graduate was buying his first house. When I reviewed his credit report with him, I found information about some of his brother’s accounts on his credit file. I have seen this in similar situations with some of my clients, especially when there is, for example, a James Jones Jr. and a James Jones Sr., or James Jones I and James Jones II. That is why it is important to review your credit report periodically. It is also important to remember that your personal and financial information will vary from one bureau to another. These three bureaus share information and in different parts of the country one bureau may be used more than another. So, when reviewing your credit, you must review reports from all three bureaus.

You have the right to dispute any inaccurate information you find in your credit file. When you receive your report, in addition to the instructions on how to read and understand the information, it will also tell you where to write to dispute any inaccuracies. If the company that is reporting the information that you are disputing cannot prove what is on the report, then it must be removed, and this goes a long way in improving your overall credit picture. It is important that you write a separate letter for each dispute. By writing one letter to challenge each negative item than one letter challenging several items, then the credit bureau may be a little more diligent in their efforts because they do not want to allow someone to wipe out a lot of negative information with one letter. I know it will be a big hassle to write a letter of dispute for each negative item, but you will be able to track more closely which items were or were not actually removed, and you will have much better chance of having more negative items removed than not.

You should only challenge items that are incomplete, obsolete, erroneous, inaccurate, outdated, or misleading. Also ask for a copy of the report once the investigation has been complete. In your letter be objective, non-threatening, clear and to the point, and use supporting documentation. Do not drop all of your letters in the mail on the same day. Stagger them, one every day or every other day. Keep a log and track everything. Make a copy of each dispute for your file and it is extremely important to stay well organized during this process.

In some cases, I found different addresses and phone numbers for the same bureau so I’m not sure if they, the credit bureaus, change this information, and if they do what is old and what is new. I have included everything I could find here, but the best way to contact the bureaus or getting the most up to date information is to go directly to their respective web sites. Here is how to get in touch with the three major credit bureaus in the United States.

To be in compliance with United States Federal Trade Commission Regulations, I must tell you that I, or my publishing company, may receive a commission from the sale of these products or programs. It takes a great deal of time to research, investigate, assemble, and publish, and to be honest, the few dollars  in commissions I, or my company, make in bringing you the best of the best in programs are what keeps my company going.  Allow me to take this time to thank you for reading this article and reviewing the following offers.

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