Prevent Identity Theft by Checking Your Credit Report

Mar 5 15:59 2005 Steven Presar Print This Article

You may not know it but you are entitled to a free copy ofyour credit report once a year from Equifax, Experian andTrans Union!

These three major credit reporting companies,Guest Posting maintain aprofile of how you pay your bills, what type of mortgageloan you qualify for and whether you've been sued or filedfor bankruptcy.

However, this free credit reporting service is not availablein all areas of the United States yet.

The service has been available in the twelve western UnitedStates since January 1, 2005. It is now available inMidwestern states since March 1, 2005.

On June 1, 2005 the service will be available to individualsin Southern United States and for those in the EasternUnited States starting September 1, 2005.

This service is provided under the Fair and Accurate CreditTransactions Act (FACT).It is in response to the raising number of identity thiefreported in the U.S.

The law lets you see what lenders, prospective employers orprospective landlords see.

An addition goal is to help you spot identity theft byletting you to see a list of all credit accounts open inyour name. For you to view your report regularly may be thebest ways you have to determine how your credit ratingstands and if you have been a victim of identity theft.

You have the ability to request one credit report from eachof the three credit reporting companies once a year.

The best way to make the most of this free credit reportopportunity is by ordering a credit report from one of thethree credit companies every three-four months. In that wayyou can monitor your credit regularly at no cost.

The official website that you can get your credit reportinformation is --

Once you are at the site, you will able to link to the threecredit companies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, specialweb pages to get your credit report.

However, be aware of the advertising on each agency's freecredit report site that may lead you to believe that youmust purchase one or more of there other services, like yourpersonal credit score number, to get your free creditreport.

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act does notprevent these credit reporting companies from advertisingtheir other services before you are able to get to your freecredit report.

When you are at one of the credit reporting company’s sitepages it is not clear that you may get your free creditreport without purchasing any of the company’s otherservices.

As you visit the credit reporting company’s site you may getthe impression that you must pay to see your “credit score”(also called a FICO score) before you are able to see yourfree credit report.

This is not the case, your credit score is the numbercalculated on a scale between about 300 and 925. It is usedwhen you're buying a new car, house or other majorpurchases. You'll still have to pay one of the creditcompanies a fee to see that number. This credit score numberis different from the information within your free creditreport.

The official site is separate from the credit reportingcompanies’ regular sites, where you still must pay to getyour credit information.

In addition, there are a few look-alike sites you mayconfuse with the official free credit report site. Theseother sites may have been setup for outright credit fraud.Be very careful that you are working with the official sitesetup and maintained by Central Source, a joint ventureamong the three credit companies to process these freecredit reports -- If you receivean offer through the mail, via phone call or an email toprovide your credit report for a fee, it is probablyfraudulent.

Here's how to Request your free Credit Report


Or you can call toll-free: 877-322-8228

Or order by mail:Annual Credit Report Request Service,P.O. Box 105281,Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

If you request report by mail you must mail in a requestform available on the site of the Federal Trade Commission:

The reports are sent to you within 15 days.

If you're ordering your report online, it's best to go tothe site directly rather than togo through the one of the three credit reporting company’ssites. You may get your free report at their sites but youfirst must go through their advertising for monthlycredit-monitoring programs and other services they offer toget your free report.

If you do this inquiry online, be sure to do your inquiryfrom your home computer because you'll need to have certainfinancial information handy to answer security questions.

You'll be asked a series of personal questions to make sureyou are the person that you say you are, including yourbirth date and Social Security number.

Central Source says its security protocols and measuresprotect personal information from unauthorized access orrecord alteration. In addition, your Social Security numberis encrypted for your additional protection.

And you can request that just the last four digits of thatnumber appear on your printed credit report.

As mentioned above, you may request one report from eachcredit company once a year. To get the best use of this freeservice, it's best to request your credit report from onecredit company this month and request your credit reportfrom another credit company about three-four months latter.Then request the third version of your report aboutthree-four months after that.

After you request the credit company that you want toprovide your credit report you'll be redirected to specialsite pages set up by each of the three credit companies.Each will ask you a series of personal questions to validateyour identity; the name of your mortgage lender, the amountof your monthly payment, the amount of your auto loan, etc.

Each of the three has a different look and feel:

~ Experian has a handy summary report that shows the numberof "potentially negative" items in your report and number ofaccounts in good standing.

~ Equifax shows an exhaustive list of accounts, what typethey are, when they were opened, the balance and creditlimit, last payment and account status.

~ TransUnion uses a color-coded series of boxes to showwhich accounts are current and which are overdue.

All three show who else has been looking at your creditreport, credit card companies seeking to approve you for acredit card offer, mortgage brokers, lenders trying todetermine the terms of a loan, or existing creditorsreviewing your account.

You can choose to just look at the information online orprint the complete report. Your credit report may be dozensof pages long to view or print.

All three offer links for disputing credit reportinformation or reporting an error. You'll also get theaddress and sometimes the phone number for each individualcreditor, handy if you need to follow up on an error.

You are also offered the option of submitting a "personalstatement" where you can explain your credit report in yourown words. The statement remains on file for two years.

Your basic credit report is free but as you go about gettingto your credit information, you'll have to contend withmultiple offers for fee-based products and services. You donot have to buy any of them to get your free credit report.The credit companies have loaded their pages with offers formonthly credit-report alerts, credit rankings, homevaluators or credit score.

Summery: Getting Your Credit Report

Free credit reports can be obtained once a year bytelephone, by mail or online from the official site operatedby Central Source for Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

~ Online:

~ Toll-free number: 877.322.8228

~ Mailing address:Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281,Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

It will take up to 15 days to process phone and mailrequests.

You do not have to pay anything to get your free creditreport.

However, if you want to get a credit score or other extras,you may be charged a fee.

Additional reports can be obtained anytime directly from thecredit reporting companies at prices ranging from $9 for onereport from one agency to $34.95 for a combined report fromall three.

If you want to receive the reports by mail, you must mail ina request form available on the site of the Federal

For more information: Check out the FTC's

You can also make a complaint online at that site address.

Credit Report Tips

You don't have to order all three reports at once. Staggeryour requests so you can view your credit over the year;i.e.: order one report now, the next report in three monthsand the third report in about six months. Then next year youwould be eligible for another free report from the firstcredit company. This currently only applies to those in theWestern and Midwestern U.S. The rest of the county will haveto want until their regional roll-out.

If you are planning a major purchase, you may want to getall three reports at once to make sure there isn't anyinformation that might affect your credit.

Read the report to make sure everything is accurate. Eachagency has an address or number you can call to reporterrors. If you are disputing an item listed, the creditagency is required to investigate. Inaccurate, incomplete orunverifiable information must be removed or corrected,usually within 30 days. For more information oncredit-report disputes, go online to the Federal TradeCommission at

If you have any technical problems, you get kicked off thesite, you never get a report requested by phone or mail, oryou only get one of the three reports you request -- writeto the joint mailing address, Annual Credit Report RequestService, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281, andexplain the problem.

If you have been the victim of identity theft, you areeligible to get a free credit report from all the agencieseven if you've already received your free annual reportunder the program.

If you have complaints about the program, contact the FTConline at then click on "File aComplaint." or you can write to FTC Consumer ResponseCenter, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Room 130, Washington,D.C. 20580. You can also send a written complaint to theofficial credit-report site at the Atlanta address listedabove.

Copyright Steven Presar

Source: Free Guest Posting Articles from

About Article Author

Steven Presar
Steven Presar

Steven Presar is a recognized small business technology coach, Internet publisher, author, speaker, and trainer. He provides personal, home, and computer security solutions at He provides business software reviews at In addition, he publishes articles for starting and running a small business at Be sure to sign-up for the SOHO newsletter at this site.

View More Articles