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Credit Reports: What They Are, How To Get One, How To Fix It

How To Get A Free Copy Of My Credit Report

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You can obtain a free credit report through independent web sites or directly from the credit-reporting bureaus.  When you request a credit report, include identifying information and follow up. Each of these subjects are discussed below.

Web Sites

An excellent source which provides a free annual credit report from all three companies is offsite link, Tel. 877.322.8228.

NOTE: advertises that you can get a free credit report from their site. You have to look at the fine print to find out that when you order your free report, you are automatically enrolled in a credit monitoring service that costs money per month. You can avoid the monthly payments if you cancel the registration in 7 days.

Through the Three Major Credit-Reporting Bureaus


The three major credit-reporting bureaus -- TransUnion, Experian and Equifax -- are all required to provide a free copy of your credit report once every twelve months upon request.


You are also entitled to a free report from each bureau if:

  • You live in any of the following states:
    • Colorado
    • Georgia
    • Maryland
    • Massachusetts
    • New Jersey
    • Vermont
  • You are a welfare recipient.
  • You believe that you have been a victim of fraud.
  • You've been turned down for credit in the past 60 days based on a report provided by the agency from which you're requesting it.
  • A company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment, and you request your report within 60 days of receiving the notice of the action.
  • You send a credit bureau an "update," such as a change in address. Credit bureaus usually send a copy of your "updated" credit report.
  • You ask a question about the contents of your report of almost any sort (for example, "can you please verify that my birth date is listed correctly in your files as…"). Even if you have asked the same question before, the reporting bureau will usually send a copy of your "updated" credit report along with the response.

All three credit reporting bureaus have websites that let you view your report online and also give you information to order your report by mail or telephone.

Since the information held by each bureau may differ, it is advisable to obtain copies of all three reports.

If money is tight and you already received your annual free report, at least obtain a report from one of the companies. If there are problems, you can then order reports from the other two. (In most states you can order a report from each of the three main bureaus for $10 or less.)

When You Request A Credit Report

When requesting your report, include:

  • Your name (Include any other names by which you have been known such as maiden names or previous married names).
  • Addresses for the last five years.
  • Date of birth.
  • Social Security number.
  • Telephone number.

In case there is a problem or no response, use certified mail, return receipt requested and pay for the report with a check or money order.

If you do not hear from the bureau within thirty days, send another request with a copy of the first request.

Now is also a good time to tell the credit bureaus you do not want them to give your name to credit card issuers looking for new customers. If they do give out your name and you receive an offer for "pre-approved" credit, don't believe it. These issuers don't have to accept you, and if you get turned down, the rejection will show up in your credit report.

NOTE: Write on your calendar or create alerts in your computer for every 4 months to check your credit report. As noted above, your credit report is free from each of the 3 major credit bureaus every 12 months. If you stagger the free report requests among the three major bureaus (a different one of the three every four months) you will be updated throughout the year without charge.

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