How to Build Credit: Get a Free Annual Credit Report and Check it Carefully
How do I get a free annual credit report is one of the first questions you need to ask yourself if you are challenged with debt. What you are looking for? You are looking for everything….(1) make sure there are no mistakes on the report; (2) look for accounts that you did not open…identity theft; (3) dispute any bad information you can on your report, like late payments.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “your credit report contains information about where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued or arrested, or have filed for bankruptcy. Credit reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home.”
Under federal law, you are entitled to receive your credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies once a year. This mandate that you receive a free credit report, however, does not mean that the credit report comes from the government; it comes from the three major credit reportng companies in the business who jointly set up the These companies have set up a website where you can obtain your free report, which is annualcreditreport.com. This is the only site where you will absolutely receive a free credit report. Other sites that promise “free” may be charging you. You can use this website or you can call for an annual report at 1-877-322-8228 or complete an Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service: P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Do not contact any of the three companies for a free report. They are in business to make money. If you contact them for your credit report, you will have to pay for it. In order to get your free credit report, you will need to provide your name, address, Social Security number and date of birth. Have you moved in the last two years? If so, you probably will have to provide your old address.
One way to get the most out of your annual free credit report option is to order only one credit report at a time and space out the other ones over four-month periods. That way, you can check your credit report for free every four months. A word of caution: each of the three credit reporting companies will have somewhat different information occasionally, we don’t know why. So if you get all three credit reports at once, you can check all three for errors and if one of the companies shows an error, you can correct it. If you get each credit report over time, you will be able to monitor your credit every four months over the year for free, but you could be missing an error in a later report. It is your call!
What You Must Look for in Your Credit Report
Here are three things to look for on your report:
Make sure information is accurate and if not, you need to dispute it with the loan company and the credit reporting company where the error appears. Sometimes the error appears on all three credit reports.
Guard against identity theft by checking for any accounts that may not be yours. One nasty trick is to compromise your information in order to open a bogus utility account, then the theft will put in an address change. They will keep using the account until the utility company closes it down for nonpayment and makes a negative report against you. This may be your first indication that such an account was opened and abused.
If you credit report is not in good shape at the moment, go over everything carefully and get anything removed that you can. Any improvement in your credit score will help you.
While most of us are only entitled to one free credit report from the big three once a year, there are other situations where you might be able to secure a free credit report. If any company takes adverse action against you, such as denying an application for credit or insurance, you can ask for a free credit report within 60 days from the notice of action to check out the information to ensure it is correct. According to the FTC, you are also entitled to one free report a year if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; if you’re on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft.