Your Free Credit Report: Where to Find It and Common Scams to Avoid
Your credit report holds the key to your financial history. It shows lenders how responsible you are with credit to determine if you’re worthy of borrowing money. Anyone from lenders to potential employers can pull your credit report. Because of this, it’s important to know what they’re looking at.
Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, anyone can access their credit report for free. However, be on the lookout for fraud and scams. Here’s where and how you can get a free credit report without getting taken in by scammers.
Where to get your free credit report
You can get credit reports from all three major credit bureaus once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com. This is the only site authorized by the Federal Trade Commission to distribute free credit reports.
Though you can download all three of your credit reports at once, you may want to consider staggering them. By pulling a new one every four months, for example, you can track credit growth over time or see if bad marks are being removed as you report them.
If you go this route, remember that not all credit bureaus report the same information. Many will contain a lot of the same data, but not everything will overlap. This could make it slightly more challenging to stay on top of bad marks on your credit report.
How to get your free credit report
Since all three credit bureaus allow you to get free credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com, this is the only site you need to visit to get them. You’ll repeat these steps for each report you want to access.
Step 1: Head to AnnualCreditReport.com and request your free credit report.
Step 2: Fill out your form. This form is to verify you are who you say you are, so you’ll need to provide personal information like your Social Security number and current and previous addresses.
Step 3: Pick which bureau you want to get your report from: Experian, TransUnion or Equifax.
Step 4: Answer security questions. These questions might require some thought, like remembering old cars you once owned or former addresses. These questions are asked to ensure no one is pulling your credit report but you. If you can answer correctly, you’ll get your report. But choose your answers carefully: Some answers intentionally look very similar to others, so make sure you choose the right one.
Step 5: Download and save for your records.
Credit scores aren’t included in credit reports. You can get your credit score for free from places like your bank, credit card lender or LendingTree.
How to avoid credit report scams
Even though you can legally get your credit report for free, there are plenty of scammers looking to steal your personal information. Here are a few scams to be aware of.
There are some sites that look like AnnualCreditReport.com in name. If you do an online search for a free credit report, many different sites might come up. Not knowing the difference could bring you to a place that will try to take your money, your personal information or both.
Watch out for sites that purposely misspell “annualcreditreport.com” in hopes that you’ll type the name in wrong. If you land on a site that prompts you to put in a credit card number, be wary. If a site notes they will give you your free credit report if you sign up for a trial or subscription first, you are almost certainly on a scam site. The FTC specifically warns against signing up for any service or product in exchange for your credit report.
Emails for download or calls
Ignore unsolicited emails and attachments that prompt you to download your credit report. Likewise, ignore any emails that try to get you to follow a link to get your report.
If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from AnnualCreditReport.com or the three major credit bureaus offering to help you download your reports, do not respond. AnnualCreditReport.com does not solicit business over the phone; it’s a scammer trying to steal your information.
Are you ready to get your free credit report?
Though the risks are palpable, it’s important to stay on top of your credit. Otherwise, you may not know when you’ve been a victim of fraud or theft until it’s too late. Just remember: There is only one place you can get your free credit report, and that is AnnualCreditReport.com. And they will not call you.
If you want to go beyond simply getting your own credit report, consider using LendingTree’s credit monitoring service, which can give you a comprehensive view of your entire credit profile.