Most people know that creditors and lenders obtain copies of consumer credit reports from credit bureaus to assess the individual’s creditworthiness. However, credit reports may also be accessed by other companies for other reasons. For example, auto insurance carriers may access consumers’ credit reports and then base their car insurance rates on the payment history and credit information contained in the credit reports. Potential employers may also access credit reports. For these reasons, it is important to know and understand your information that is on the credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus.
Another reason to stay informed about information recorded by the three credit bureaus is to combat against identity theft. The U.S. has seen a dramatic increase in incidents of Identity theft over the past few years. In fact, the crime of identity theft is expected to continue to grow, costing American businesses an estimated $221 Billion per year! Staying informed with regards to your credit information is essential to avoid being victimized by an identity thief. The I.D. Theft Center (www.idtheftcenter.org) posits that approximately 10 percent of all Americans have had their identity compromised to some extent. The average loss to each individual is approximately $5000.
Obtaining credit reports on a regular basis from all three credit bureaus is your best defense against identity theft. Because the three credit bureaus may record information from different lenders, it is important to stay abreast of the information that is tracked by each of the three credit reporting agencies. Additionally, staying informed of your credit standing will help you improve your credit history and provide you with information about incorrect entries on your reports. The three major credit bureaus that serve residents of the U.S. are:
– Experian – experian.com
– Equifax – equifax.com
– TransUnion – transunion.com
Each of the three credit bureaus will provide consumers with copies of their reports for a fee. However, you can also obtain one free copy per year from each of the three agencies. In addition, you can obtain a free credit report if you have applied for credit, or you have been denied employment or a living quarters based on your credit history. You can also get your report from one of the many credit report sites that provide them for a small fee. If you have been denied in one of these situations, the company or individual that has denied your application must provide a letter naming the credit bureau that was queried for the decision. This letter will provide instructions about obtaining a free credit report. However, you have a limited number of days to request this free report, generally between 30 and 45 days, depending on the agency.
Obtaining Free Annual Credit Reports from All Three Bureaus
All of the three credit bureaus utilize the same online service to provide consumers with their free annual credit reports. By visiting the AnnualCreditReport.com website, you can fill out one form and obtain your credit reports from each of the three agencies at one time. You can download and save these credit reports for future reference. You can also request your free credit reports by mail or phone. To request the reports by phone, call Call 1-877-322-8228. Your identity is verified and the reports are mailed to you within 15 days. To request the reports by mail, download the request form from https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/requestformfinal.pdf. Complete the form, and then mail it to:Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Your credit reports from all three credit bureaus are mailed within 15 days of the receipt of the request.
Errant Entries on Your Credit Reports
You can dispute errors on your credit report to have them removed. If you have been the victim of identity theft, and the theft has affected your credit history, credit bureaus will work with you to minimize the impact of the theft on your credit future. Contact the credit bureau for more information about how to correct errors on your credit report.