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AnnualCreditReport.com requires users to register with the site and provide their basic identification information, such as name, address, and Social Security number. The user is then sent to the website of the individual credit reporting agency they select, where they are asked additional security questions to confirm their identity before getting their report. A consumer can request reports from all three agencies at the same time or stagger the requests throughout the twelve-month period as a way to self-monitor their credit data. In order to obtain a free credit report, users are not required to give a credit card number but establishing an account is required by some of the agencies. Any inaccuracies or signs of identity theft may be dealt with using the mechanisms provided for under the FCRA and FACTA.
It used to be that your credit score was a big mystery, or you had to pay to see it. Now credit card companies can’t wait to show you your score, for free. But those three-digit numbers you get every month aren’t necessarily the ones lenders use. In reality, you have dozens of scores, some based on previous versions of FICO scoring models and others developed by the three big credit bureaus. And your score will vary by the lender’s industry—mortgage, auto loan, credit card, and telecom services.
Accordingly, the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion created the joint venture company Central Source LLC to oversee their compliance with FACTA. Central Source then set up a toll free telephone number, a mailing address and a central website, AnnualCreditReport.com, to process consumer requests. Access to the free report was initially rolled out in stages, based on the consumer’s state of residence. By the end of 2005 all U.S. consumers could use these services to obtain a credit report.
Several years ago, it was common for companies to advertise “free credit reports” on TV and radio spots. Most of the offers were a bait and switch. Sign up, get a free credit report and score, then see your credit card charged $10-$20 every month after that if you didn’t cancel on time. Thankfully, the Credit Card Act of 2009 changed the way companies are allowed to advertise free credit reports. The Federal Trade Commission now requires credit bureaus and credit monitoring services to market credit reports differently than previously.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. The FCRA promotes the accuracy and privacy of information in the files of the nation’s credit reporting companies. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the FCRA with respect to credit reporting companies.