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Free Annual Credit Report – How to get them.
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Regularly checking your credit report is imperative to assuring your financial health. You will need to know your credit scores to know what sorts of mortgages you can realistically qualify for when you embark on home purchase plans. And, finding out what is wrong and fixing it is a vital part of the credit repair process.
Credit reports and credit scores used to be hard to find. You never knew what your score was or what information determined it. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 increased transparency by requiring the three major credit reporting agencies to provide consumers with free access to their credit reports once a year.
To get your free annual credit reports, follow these steps:
- Visit the site AnnualCreditReport.com. While there are other sites that offer credit reports, this is the only official clearinghouse to get yours from all three credit bureaus for free.
- Provide the requested information. You will start by entering your state of residence, then identifying information such as your name, current address, previous address and Social Security Number.
- Once the site finds your information in the system, you will be prompted to provide some identifying information about your credit history. For instance, you will be asked which bank holds your car loan, and will have to select the answer from four options below. Do not feel alarmed if you are asked about accounts that you do not have. “None of the above” is one of the acceptable answers!
- Once your identity is confirmed, you will have the chance to visit each of the credit bureaus in turn. In between looking at your reports, you will return to AnnualCreditReport.com. Follow directions closely to avoid risk of inadvertently closing out your session.
- When you visit the sites to view your credit report, you will find that the information is organized a little differently on each. But, they will all contain information about your current loans, credit cards, past debts, and credit inquiries. Negative items such as bankruptcies and liens will appear in their own section.
- Study the information in the report carefully. Are there any errors? Are any of your credit accounts missing from the report? These can artificially lower your score, and you should dispute these items. A federal study in 2004 found that 79% of all credit reports contain at least one error.
- Be sure to print a copy of each report or to save it to your computer. You can save a copy by choosing “print” and then picking “Adobe PDF” as the printer. This way, you are able to consult the report repeatedly as you address any issues.
You are allowed to check your report free once per year. To remind yourself that it’s time to check your free credit report, try to link the date to an outside reminder. For instance, many people check their credit reports on the same day that they turn the clocks back each fall. By checking each year, you can keep yourself up to date on what your credit reports say and keep yourself aware of your own financial health.