When Free Credit Reports Aren’t Free

When A “Free” Credit Report is not Free

Ellie was on ABC News Now this past week talking about this critical topic. Since 2004, consumers have had the right to request a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three credit-reporting agencies. But almost from the beginning there’s been confusion about how to get a free credit report. There are thousands of people who respond to TV ads offering “free” credit reports or they order a credit report online only to later discover that they have signed up for a monthly credit-monitoring service that was definitely not free.
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Q. Let’s start with the obvious question, Ellie, when is a free credit report really free?


Ellie: There’s basically one primary way to get a no-strings-attached free credit report and that is to go to AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. You can also write into Annual Credit Report Request Service at PO Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. While there are many look-a-likes sites, there is basically one government site and that is AnnualCreditReport.com .

Q. What is the difference between a credit report and a credit score and are they both free?

Ellie: A credit report is your credit history and that is free as outlined above. However, you are not entitled to a free credit score. The credit score is your FICO (Fair Isaac Credit Score) and it indicates your credit worthiness and will impact a variety of financial areas including what kind of Annual Percentage Rate you will pay for your mortgage loan.

Q. How often can you get a free credit report and from what credit reporting agencies?

Ellie: You are allowed one free report, per year, from each of the three major reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. You don’t have to get all of them at the same time. In fact, I recommend that you spread out each of the reports every four months. That way you can track, for free, whether there have been any major changes in your credit history on a regular basis.

Q. Should I order a copy of my kids’ credit report to see if someone stole their ID?

Ellie: Child identity theft is on the rise and it is important for you to order a copy of your child’s credit report at least once a year to make sure it has not been compromised. You should also go to Social Security Administration website and order a copy of your child’s social security earnings to make sure someone isn’t using their number in order to obtain work.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

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