Free Credit Reports
There’s a new act in town! It’s called the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act. This act, among other things, stipulates that each American consumer is entitled to a yearly review of their credit report, one provided by each of the three main credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Exquifax.
The act will go into effect gradually, first in the Western states beginning December 1, 2004, then the Midwestern states on March 1, 2005, followed by the Southern states on June 1, 2005, and finally the Eastern states and all U.S. Territories on Sept 1, 2005.
Why the gradual activation?
There are over 200 million American eligible for free credit reports, and the bureaus do not want to be overwhelmed with requests. Due to the growing significances of credit reports, the bureaus expect a huge response.
What is a credit report?
Your credit report is like the adult version of a report card; it documents your history of bill payments, loan payments, and other economic activity. If you have a 760 or above, consider that an “A” on your credit report. You will get the best credit rates. Above 700, a “B”. Between 600 and 700, a “C”. Below 600 is a big “D” or even an “F” and you will almost surely have to pay higher interest rates. Your credit score is becoming more and more significant as more and more businesses use it to extend credit or services.
Your credit report is shared with banks, leasing offices, and even potential employers. Keeping an eye on what your credit report says is vital in making sure you have a good reputation in the credit world.
I know I have good credit; I pay all my bills on time. Why should I have to check my report?
You have probably heard of identity theft- strangers using your credit card or other personal information to apply for loans, set up utilities, go on vacations, purchase parts to build their own robot, and running up huge bills under YOUR name.
Sometimes it can be a year before a victim of identity theft becomes aware of it. One day they apply for a credit card, confident that they have an immaculate credit history, and are shocked when they are denied. Then they check their credit report and discover the unhappy truth- someone has wreaked havoc under their name, and ruined their credit.
This growing problem of identity theft is part of what led to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act, making it easier for consumers to keep an eye on their credit report. It is recommended that you review your credit report at least once a year, if not every few months, so you can catch any illegal activity and report it right away.
But what is so great about getting a free credit report?
Americans are already entitled to a free report if they suspect they are victims of identity theft or have been denied an application for credit and would like to know why. But otherwise, checking your credit report can cost you as much as $40 a pop. A free annual report will encourage Americans to check their credit, hopefully catching any fraudulent activity before it goes to far.
So, how do I get my free report?
The three main credit bureaus, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, have teamed up to make it even easier for Americans to get their free credit report. They have formed a convenient one-stop-shop for your credit score needs.
All you have to do is go to Annualcreditreport.com, and there you can request, view, and even print your credit report, right from your own home, and at no cost. You can also request your credit report by mail or by phone, and can expect a reply within a few weeks.
What else does the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act do for me?
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act also includes a number of new safeguards to protect you and your credit. Among them:
- Banks will be required to inform you if it reports any negative credit information about you to the credit bureau.
- Banks will also be required to inform you if you are receiving different credit terms than other consumers, due to a poor credit history.
- Identity theft victims will be able to prevent the fraudulent information from appearing on their credit report, as long as they report the fraud to the police.
- A fraud alert will also be placed on your credit report so that businesses know that your private financial information was compromised.
Ok, I want my free credit report!
- Call toll-free at (877) 322-8228
- Go online to www.annualcreditreport.com
- Or request by mail at Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
It’s your right to know your credit score. And now, it’s free.
© 2008 AmericanCreditFoundation.org®. Michael G. Peterson is a co-founder and Spokesman of American Credit Foundation, an IRS 501 (c)(3) non-profit consumer credit counseling organization that has assisted thousands of individuals and families with their financial situations through seminars, education, counseling services, and, debt management plans. For more information, and free consumer resources visit www.americancreditfoundation.org
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