For more than a decade now, federal law has allowed Toledo area consumers to obtain a free credit report each year. Since many people don’t know exactly how this works, let’s review a brief history of this law, where to get your free credit report, exactly what credit report data you’ll get for free, and which “free credit report” services to avoid.
The ability for anyone in this country to obtain a free credit report each year was created by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act. FACTA, as the law came to be known, was an amendment to a 1970 law called the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and was signed into law in December 2003.
At the time it became law, FACTA was enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), but enforcement has since been transferred to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB was created in July 2011 in response to the 2007-2008 financial crisis to consolidate all the government’s consumer-facing financial protection agencies under one umbrella.
Under FACTA, the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, TransUnion and Experian — set up a site called AnnualCreditReport.com to serve as the official source for consumers to get their free credit report once per year.
To get your free credit report once per year, visit AnnualCreditReport.com, and request your report.
In addition to ordering your credit report on the web, you can also request it by calling 877-322-8228, or obtain it by mail by filling out this form, and sending it to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Whether you order it online, by phone or through the mail, you will be asked to provide the following information to obtain your free credit report:
The report you’ll get from this free annual service includes your credit history and a summary of open and closed accounts. It’s ideal for monitoring your credit on an ongoing basis to ensure there aren’t any irregular activities on your report.
Examples of irregular activity can include:
Reviewing your free credit report each year can help you monitor and control these items in advance of any home loan or other credit approval.
If you do find something wrong with your credit report, you’ll be instructed to contact the original creditor, or the credit bureau that posted the error or irregularity. You should do so immediately.
Your mortgage lender can also be a good resource to advise on credit report items you’re questioning. If you don't have a lender yet, we'd recommend calling or emailing Doug Swartz, our go to guy at Hallmark Home Mortgage. His direct number is 567-703-1195 and email is email@example.com.
Despite the numerous advertisements and websites you see in the marketplace, AnnualCreditReport.com is the only place to get your free credit report, and the only source that’s guaranteed to do so by law.
The other services that are advertised as free usually have hidden fees of some sort. According to the CFPB, some sites will only give you a free report if you buy other products or services. Others give you a free report, then bill you for services you have to cancel later.
It’s also important to note that the AnnualCreditReport.com service doesn’t provide credit scores, and credit scores are required to start getting mortgage rate quotes.
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