Free credit reports: How to get the actual free one
The federal government mandated that the three major credit reporting agencies must provide U.S. citizens with a free annual credit report. The problem is that many of them aren't really free, and it can difficult to tell the difference.
There are three ways you can request a free credit report:
1. Request your credit report online -- AnnualCreditReport.com is one of those sites that really is free. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 required the credit reporting agencies Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to jointly create the site to provide Americans with free and easy access to their reports. Other so-called "free credit report sites" can come with any number of strings attached -- for example, your "free" report will come with a membership to a credit monitoring service that begins as a free trial but quickly becomes an automatic monthly charge on your credit card --- but that's not the case with AnnualCreditReport.com
2. Request your credit report by phone
-- Call (877) 322-8228 to request your credit reports by phone. You will go through a simple verification process over the phone. Your reports will be mailed to you.
3. Request your credit report by mail -- You can request your credit report by mail by filling out the request form and mailing it to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
You must have an Adobe viewer to download the request form. Download the free Adobe viewer.
It's more important than ever for you to check your credit report on a regular basis. Generally, it is a smart move to get a credit score several months before applying for a mortgage or other sizable loan, particularly if the consumer has a rocky credit history. Doing so will provide them with time to fix mistakes, pay off some credit card balances and generally clean up the score before asking for money, since a higher score can save consumers lots of money on a loan. A credit report can also help a consumer spot identity theft or fraud and begin to combat it.