Did you know that you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies [Equifax, Experian, & TransUnion]?
You can order online from annualcreditreport.com [the only authorized website for free credit reports], call 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You will need to provide your name, address, social security number, and date of birth to verify your identity.
To request your report online or on the phone, you will need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth when ordering your Credit Report. If you have moved in the last two years, you may have to provide your previous address as well. To maintain the security of your file, each nationwide credit reporting company may ask you for some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment. Each company may ask you for different information because the information each has in your file may come from different sources.
If you request your report online at annualcreditreport.com, you should be able to access it immediately. If you order your report by calling toll-free 1-877-322-8228, your report will be processed and mailed to you within 15 days. If you order your report by mail using the Annual Credit Report Request Form, your request will be processed and mailed to you within 15 days of receipt.
Whether you order your report online, by phone, or by mail, it may take longer to receive your report if the nationwide credit reporting company needs more information to verify your identity.
But what about all those free credit websites?
Be aware that annualcreditreport.com is the only website that is authorized to fill orders for the free annual credit report you are entitled to under law. Other websites that claim to offer “free credit reports” are not part of the legally mandated free annual credit report program. In some cases, the “free” product comes with strings attached. For example, some sites sign you up for a supposedly “free” service that converts to one you have to pay for after a trial period. If you don’t cancel during the trial period, you may be unwittingly agreeing to let the company start charging fees to your credit card.
Some “imposter” sites use terms like “free report” in their names; others have URLs that purposely misspell annualcreditreport.com in the hope that you will mistype the name of the official site. Some of these “imposter” sites direct you to other sites that try to sell you something or collect your personal information.
Annualcreditreport.com and the nationwide credit reporting companies will not send you an email asking for your personal information. If you get an email, see a pop-up ad, or get a phone call from someone claiming to be from annualcreditreport.com or any of the three nationwide credit reporting companies, do not reply or click on any link in the message. It’s probably a scam. Forward any such email to the FTC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you concerned your identity may have been stolen? You should be aware of how to initiate a credit freeze.
Also known as a security freeze, this tool lets you restrict access to your credit report, which in turn makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. That’s because most creditors need to see your credit report before they approve a new account. If they can’t see your file, they may not extend the credit.
A credit freeze does NOT:
- Does not affect your credit score.
- Prevent you from getting your free annual credit report
- Keep you from opening a new account, applying for a job, renting an apartment, or buying insurance. But if you’re doing any of these, you’ll need to lift the freeze temporarily, either for a specific time or for a specific party, say, a potential landlord or employer. The cost and lead times to lift a freeze vary, so it’s best to check with the credit reporting company in advance.
- Prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. You still need to monitor all bank, credit card and insurance statements for fraudulent transactions.
How do I place a freeze on my credit reports?
Contact each of the nationwide credit reporting companies:
You’ll need to supply your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information. In California, a security freeze is free to identity theft victims who have a police report of identity theft. If you are not an identity theft victim and you are under 65 years of age, it will cost you $10 to place a freeze with each of the three credit bureaus. That is a total of $30 to freeze your files. If you are not an identity theft victim and you are 65 years of age or older, it will cost you $5 to place a freeze with each of the three credit bureaus. That is a total of $15 to freeze your files.
After receiving your freeze request, each credit reporting company will send you a confirmation letter containing a unique PIN (personal identification number) or password. Keep the PIN or password in a safe place. You will need it if you choose to lift the freeze.
How do I lift a freeze?
A freeze remains in place until you ask the credit reporting company to temporarily lift it or remove it altogether. A credit reporting company must lift a freeze no later than three business days after getting your request. The cost to lift a freeze varies by state.
If you opt for a temporary lift because you are applying for credit or a job, and you can find out which credit reporting company the business will contact for your file, you can save some money by lifting the freeze only at that particular company.
What if my identity has been stolen?
If you are a victim of identity theft, you should file a police report with the law enforcement agency closest to where you live.
Your local police or sheriff department must take an identity theft report if you have documents to show you were a victim. (California Penal Code Section 530.6)
When/if you go to the police station, bring supporting documents such as:
- Copies of bills or collection notices
- Credit reports with fraudulent charges
- Bank or credit card statements
Make sure to write down the number on the police report. Your creditors may ask for the report number. Individual police departments have their own procedure for reporting identity theft.