In the USA you are legally entitled to receive a free copy of your credit report once per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. If you want a copy more often than that, you will probably have to pay for the copies from each of the three credit reporting agencies.
Credit reporting agencies gather and sell all types of credit-related information as allowed by law. All of the credit card card companies that you hold accounts with and all loans from banks and other lending institutions (your creditors) report information to these agencies. The agencies also have teams of people and computer systems that gather information from numerous public sources. The agencies do not grant or deny credit, but they do use methods to determine your credit worthiness thorough credit scores.
Most of the time, the information collected is reported accurately. However, there are times when mistakes are made and erroneous information finds its way into your credit report. This can have serious consequences when you need to apply for a loan for a home or a car, but it goes beyond this. Many employers use credit report information to determine if you are trustworthy. The theory behind this basically states that if you have had problems paying your bills or are considered to be a credit risk, you are not likely be a reliable employee.
The main reason for reviewing your credit history can be much more important than issues related to employment or obtaining a loan. Many identity theft issues can be identified by reviewing your credit report. If you see information related to loans that have been taken out in your name or credit cards under your name, a big red flag should be raised and the matter needs to be investigated and resolved before your credit is destroyed by a thief.
You would think that in order to obtain a loan or a credit card in your name a bank or credit card company would have to verify your address. That is not always the case. Identity thieves typically obtain loans and credit cards using an address that is different from yours. All that a thief needs to steal your identity is some personal information, such as a driver’s license number and a social security number. Surprisingly, this information is frequently found on government web sites.
It is a good idea to review your credit reports from each of the three agencies at least once per year. Most people never review their credit, but later wish they had when they find out that they have been a victim of identity theft. A quick review can save you a lot of time and financial pain. Consumer Reports recommends doing a review every four months.
The three major credit agencies are the following:
PO Box 105873
Atlanta, GA 30348
PO Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013
Post Office Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022
The Free Government Mandated Alternative
The US Federal Trade Commission web site has instructions for obtaining a free annual credit report from all three credit reporting agencies as mandated by the Fair Credit reporting Act. The FTC site warns that there is only one authorized source for this information. They also warn you to beware of sites that look and sound similar.
The sole authorized source for obtaining your free annual credit report is a site called AnnualCreditReport.com.
You may be tempted to sign up for one of the services that you hear advertised on the radio and television that appear to offer a free copy of your credit report if you apply for it through them. Be aware that these are not credit reporting agencies and they do not offer a free copy of your credit report unless you sign up for one of their paid services. Many people who sign up are not even aware that they are committing to a paid service when they apply at these web sites, or they may believe that they need to sign up for a service in order to obtain a free credit report.
If you try to obtain the free credit report that you are entitled to from one of the three major agencies, they will try to sign you up for a paid credit monitoring program. If you just want to check your credit report, that is probably not what you want to do. The free credit report is available through AnnualCreditReport.com. However, you will likely have to pay a fee if you want to check your credit report more often than once per year.