The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) was passed in 2003. Among its provisions was the right for consumers to receive one free copy of their annual credit report from each of the credit reporting agencies.
There is only one source of free credit reports: the Annual Credit Report Request Service. This service was created by the three credit reporting agencies to handle consumers’ requests for their free credit reports. You may request your free annual reports through their website, or by telephone or mail.
Phone: (877) 322-8228
Mail: Annual Credit Report Request Service, PO Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
There are many other web sites and services claiming to offer free credit reports, but buyer beware. The others are often credit monitoring services that require you to enroll, fork over your credit card information before they provide your three “free” credit reports along with a 30-day free trial of their credit monitoring service that you’ll need to remember to cancel to avoid being charged. Still others are identity theives lying in wait of their next victim. So be a smart maven and use only the Annual Credit Report Request Service if you want your free credit reports.
Why free credit reports might be a bad idea
If you have purchased your credit reports and notice an error, you report that error to the credit reporting agency and by law, they have to resolve your dispute within 30 days.
If you obtained your credit reports for free, the credit reporting agencies are given an extra 15 days, or a total of 45 days, to resolve each dispute. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but if your credit report is full of errors, then it can considerably lengthen the time it takes to get all of them resolved. Forty-five days instead of thirty is a 50% increase in the total time it will take to get things straightened out.
Keep that in mind. It might be worth saving the time and trouble by paying out a few bucks to get the reports. For $47.85 (as of today) you can purchase not only your three credit reports, but your real FICO scores based on all three reports from www.myFICO.com. Also note that myFICO.com is the only source for your actual credit scores. Several other companies, including the credit reporting agencies themselves, will claim to sell you your FICO score, but as the calculation method used by FICO is a secret, nobody but FICO can sell you the real number. Smart of them, right?