FACTA and the rules behind getting a free credit report

Federal law mandates you can get a free report every 12 months

The Credit Guy columnist Todd Ossenfort
Todd Ossenfort has been chief operating officer for Pioneer Credit Counseling since 1998. He writes our weekly "The Credit Guy" column, answering reader questions about credit counseling and debt issues.

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Question for the CreditCards.com expert

Dear Credit Guy,
I've contacted credit report companies and was told that I must pay for any credit report. You could help me in this effort by identifying the law that defines the requirements for consumers to receive a free credit report from the reporting companies. 

It is so much easier to approach these people with facts and ask to speak with the supervisor. Thanks for whatever you can do.
-- Lorraine

Answer for the CreditCards.com expert

Dear Lorraine,
I would be happy to help. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) provides that the three major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) must provide a free copy of your credit report every 12-month period. The rules issued by the Federal Trade Commission also provide that you must be able to make your request of all three bureaus with one phone call, letter or website inquiry. You may call 1-877-322-8228, visit www.annualcreditreport.com or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

Be aware that to receive your free annual copy of your credit report from the bureaus, the request must be submitted as above. You may not contact the bureaus directly for your free annual report.

In addition, the Fair Credit Reporting Act provides that the three major credit bureaus must provide you a free copy of your credit report from their bureau:

  • If any adverse action has been taken as a result of information included in your credit report. Adverse actions would include being denied for credit, employment or housing or receiving a higher insurance rate.
  • After placing a fraud alert on your credit reports or any other actions as a result of being a victim of identity theft.
  • After disputing inaccurate information included on your report.

These requests for free reports should be made directly with the bureau involved.

I recommend that you check your report from each of the three bureaus each year. You will want to assure that all information is accurate and belongs to you. Keep in mind that all negative information that is correct will remain on your credit report for seven years from the first date of delinquency. Bankruptcies will remain on your report for 10 years.

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You can dispute information that you believe to be inaccurate with the bureau that reported it. You have the option to file a dispute online or by mail. The credit bureau is required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act to investigate the dispute and reply within a 30-day period beginning with the date the dispute is received.

Take care of your credit!

See related: Credit cards that offer free credit scores: The list grows, How to dispute credit report errors, Consumer credit report statement sample letters

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Updated: 04-20-2019