How to get a credit report, protect your credit

Get your free credit report today. Thanks to a federal law passed almost three years ago, you can.

By Matt Dinger Published: April 25, 2008
Get your free credit report today. Thanks to a federal law passed almost three years ago, you can.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires a free credit report from each of the three national credit companies be provided once every 12 months to consumers at their request for any reason, or if the consumer has been the victim of fraud, including identity theft, is unemployed and looking for a job, or has been denied credit or insurance in the 60 days prior.

The credit reports won’t have your credit score, but they will provide detailed reports on all debts reported to the credit bureaus, including loans, credit card balances and delinquent payments, said Margo Mitchell, president and chief executive officer of Credit Counseling Centers of Oklahoma.

A Web site, a toll-free phone number and a mailing address have been established by the three companies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — to handle orders of free credit reports.

But beware of other Web sites that offer these services, the Federal Trade Commission warns — only has been authorized to fill free credit requests.

Some of these Web sites have been established to collect your personal information, which could lead to damage to the credit rating you’re trying to protect.

“Identity theft is the fastest growing crime these days ... I’ve heard of a lot of people stealing mail from mailboxes, filling out credit card application and change of address forms, and then getting a credit card sent to that address in your name,” Mitchell said.

If you are an identity theft victim, you should file a report immediately with local law enforcement, the agency with the fraudulent account and the credit bureaus. In the case of an unresolved dispute, comments can be added to future reports explaining the debt, she said.

You can purchase notification of any inquiries made to the credit bureaus, Mitchell said. This service typically costs about $40 a year. The notification can be a good deterrent for unauthorized activity or identity theft, which typically takes a consumer 60 hours to resolve, she said.

Even if you’ve kept detailed records of debts and payments and there has been no unauthorized activity on your account, your credit report still could contain inaccuracies, she said.

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