Credit Reports are Almost Always FREE!

Every year, hundreds of thousands of consumers wind up paying money for a copy of their credit report. What most people are unaware of is they are entitled to a free copy of these reports. In fact, used properly, a consumer can get three (3) credit reports annually at absolutely no cost.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and states clearly that each of the three major credit bureaus has an obligation to provide these reports free.

Accessing a free annual report

You may elect to obtain your credit report online, in writing, or by phone.  While they are accessible anytime, you are allowed to obtain one from each credit reporting agency once annually. For online access, you can visit the FTC’s website “Annual Credit Report” and fill out the request form. For access by mail you can download the Annual Credit Report Request Form, print it, and mail it. To request your credit report by phone, call 1-877-322-8228.

Be wary and watch what you sign up for

There are hundreds of companies who try to sell credit insurance protection. The idea is that you can sign up for a monitoring service and they will provide you with a credit report free of charge. Fortunately, back in 2010, the FTC clamped down on these sites and demanded they make it clear that consumers had other, free options. You do not need to sign up for insurance, credit monitoring, or credit score tracking to obtain your free reports. In fact, those sites are a case of free not being free.

Other options for free reports

After you have obtained a copy of your free reports (it is often recommended you obtain one from each company quarterly), there may still be options to obtain your credit report for free. Some of them include:

  • Rejected credit — anytime you receive a denial of credit you can obtain a copy of your free credit report from the company who was responsible for the adverse action.
  • Job denial — in some instances, job applicants are denied employment because of adverse information in their credit report. Once again, you can obtain a free copy of the report from the source of the adverse information.
  • Job layoff — if you have been laid off from your job and plan to seek employment within 60 days, you can receive one free credit report.
  • Public assistance — If you are collecting most types of public assistance you have the right to obtain a free report.

These reports may be ordered directly from the agencies by contacting them directly at the following numbers:
Equifax:1-800-685-1111; Experian: 1-888-397-3742; TransUnion: 1-800-916-8800

General information and complaints:
Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Division
(617) 727-8400 Consumer Complaint and Information Hotline

Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation
(888) 283-3757 Consumer Hotline

Questions and complaints about credit and collection agencies:
Massachusetts Division of Banks
(617) 956-1501 Consumer Line

Doreen Martel

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