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Free Credit Reports: From The 3 Major Credit Bureaus!

Get your credit report online for FREE. Many financial advisors suggest that you periodically review your credit report for inaccuracies or omissions.

This could be especially important if you're considering making a major purchase, such as buying a home. Checking in advance on the accuracy of information in your credit file could speed the credit-granting process, clean credit is a must.

A recent amendment to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the credit bureau`s to provide you with free credit reports, at your request, once every 12 months.

Free Credit Reports, contain information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you've been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide credit bureau`s sell the information in your credit report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home. There are three nationwide credit reporting companies Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union.

Everyone in the Western states will first be able to order their free credit reports under the federal law beginning December 1, 2004. Consumers in other states will be able to order their copies according to a regional roll-out detailed below.

In recent months, consumers have asked the FTC for more details about their rights under the federal FCRA and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act, which established the free credit reports program. They've also asked about credit reports in general. Here are the most frequently asked questions and the answers.

Q: How do I know when I'm eligible to get a free credit report?

A: Soon free credit reports will be phased in during a nine- month period, rolling from the West Coast to the East beginning December 1, 2004. Beginning September 1, 2005, free credit reports will be accessible to all Americans, regardless of where they live.

Everyone in the Western states Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming can order their free credit reports beginning December 1, 2004.

Everyone in the Midwestern states Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin can order their free reports beginning March 1, 2005.

Everyone in the Southern states Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas can order their free reports beginning June 1, 2005.

Consumers in the Eastern states Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and all U.S. territories can order their free credit report beginning September 1, 2005.

Q: How do I order my free credit report from the 3 major credit bureau`s?

A: You may order your free credit reports from each of the three nationwide credit bureau`s at the same time, or you can order from only one or two. The law allows you to order one free copy from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies every 12 months.

Q: What information do I have to provide to get my free credit reports?

A: You need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth.

If you have moved in the last two years, you may have to provide your previous address.

To maintain the security of your file, each nationwide credit bureau`s 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. The nationwide credit reporting companies will not send you an email asking for your personal information. If you get an email or see a pop-up ad claiming it's from any of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies, do not reply or click on any link in the message it's probably a scam.

Forward any email that claims to be from any of three credit bureau`s to the FTC's database of deceptive spam at spam@uce.gov. Any of three credit bureau`s also will not call you to ask for your personal information.

Q: Why would I want to get a copy of my free credit reports?

A: You may want to review your free credit reports:

because the information it contains affects whether you can get a loan and how much you will have to pay to borrow money. to make sure the information is accurate, complete, and up-to-date before you apply for a loan for a major purchase like a house or car, buy insurance, or apply for a job. to help guard against identity theft.

That's when someone uses your personal information like your name, your Social Security number, or your credit card number to commit fraud.

Identity thieves may use your information to open a new credit card account in your name. Then, when they don't pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report. Inaccurate information like that could affect your ability to get credit, insurance, or even a job.

Q: How long does it take to get my report after I order it?

A: If you request your free credit reports online, you should be able to access it immediately. 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 3 major credit bureau`s needs more information to verify your identity.

There may be times when the major credit bureau`s receive an extraordinary volume of requests for credit reports. If that happens, you may be asked to re-submit your request. Or, you may be told that your report will be mailed to you sometime after 15 days from your request. If either of these events occurs, the 3 major credit bureau`s will let you know.

Q: Are there any other situations where I might be eligible for a free credit report?

A: Under federal law, you're entitled to a free credit report if a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment, and you ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action.

The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the credit reporting company. You're also entitled to one free credit report a year if you're unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; if you're on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft.

Otherwise, a credit reporting company may charge you up to $9 for another copy of your report within a 12-month period.

To buy a copy of your report, contact:

Equifax 800-685-1111 www.equifax.com

Experian 888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742) www.experian.com

Trans Union 800-916-8800 www.transunion.com

Under state law, consumers in Colorado, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Vermont already have free access to their credit reports.

Q: Should I order a credit report from each of the 3 major credit bureau`s?

A: It's up to you. Because the credit bureau`s get their information from different sources, the information in your credit report from one company may not reflect all, or the same, information in your reports from the other two companies. That's not to say that the information in any of your reports is necessarily inaccurate; it just may be different.

Q: Should I order my reports from all three of the major credit bureau`s at the same time?

A: You may order one, two, or all three free credit reports at the same time, or you may stagger your requests. It's your choice. Some financial advisors say staggering your requests during a 12-month period may be a good way to keep an eye on the accuracy and completeness of the information in your reports.

Q: What if I find errors either inaccuracies or incomplete information in my credit reports?

A: Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, both the credit bureau and the information provider (that is, the person, company, or organization that provides information about you to a credit bureau`s) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To take advantage of all your rights under this law, contact the Credit Bureau and the information provider.

Tell the credit bureau, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate.

They must investigate the items in question usually within 30 days unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the credit bureau, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back. If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three credit bureau`s, so they can correct the information in your file.

When the investigation is complete, the credit bureau must give you the written results and free credit reports if the dispute results in a change. (This free report does not count as your annual free report under the FACT Act.) If an item is changed or deleted, the credit bureau`s cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it is accurate and complete. They also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider.

Tell the creditor or other information provider in writing that you dispute an item. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider reports the item to a credit bureau, it must include a notice of your dispute. And if you are correct that is, if the information is found to be inaccurate the information provider may not report it again.

Q: What can I do if the credit bureau or information provider won't correct the information I dispute?

A: If an investigation doesn't resolve your dispute with the credit bureau`s, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the credit reporting company to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past.

You can expect to pay a fee for this service.

If you tell the information provider that you dispute an item, a notice of your dispute must be included any time the information provider reports the item to a credit bureau.

Q: How long can a credit bureau report negative information?

A: A credit bureau can report most accurate negative information for seven years and bankruptcy information for 10 years.

There is no time limit on reporting information about criminal convictions; information reported in response to your application for a job that pays more than $75,000 a year; and information reported because you've applied for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance.

Information about a lawsuit or an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer.

Q: Who else can get a copy of my credit report?

A: The Fair Credit Reporting Act specifies who can access your credit report. Creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use the information in your report to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home are among those that have a legal right to access your report.

Q: Can my employer get my credit reports?

A: Your employer can get a copy of your credit report only if you agree. A credit bureau may not provide information about you to your employer, or to a prospective employer, without your written consent.

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