Life Times Newsletter

Spring 2005
Vol. 7, No. 2


Access your free credit reports

A recent amendment to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.

There are three nationwide consumer reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. You can get a free report from each of these three reporting agencies. The free credit reports became available to consumers in the Midwest, including Missouri, on March 1, 2005.

Credit reports contain information about where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether youíve been sued, arrested or filed bankruptcy.

To get a free credit report, you will 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 security of your file, each consumer reporting company may ask for some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment. Each company may ask for different information because the information each agency has in your file may come from different sources.

Hereís why you should obtain a copy of your credit report:

  • Information in your credit report affects your ability to get a loan. It also helps determine how much you will have to pay to borrow money.
  • Your credit report may contain incorrect information. Checking your credit report ensures that accurate information will be available when you apply for a loan for a major purchase like a house or car, buy insurance, or apply for a job.
  • Checking your credit report helps to guard against identity theft. Identity thieves may use your information to open a new credit card account in your name. Then when the identity thieves donít pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report. By obtaining your free credit report annually from each of the credit reporting companies, you will discover any problems and be able to correct them.
  • Consumer reporting companies must investigate inaccurate information, usually in 30 days, unless they consider a dispute frivolous. They also must forward all relevant data about the inaccuracy that you provide to the organization that provided the information.

    If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide consumer reporting companies so they can correct the information in your file.

    Getting the reports each year will allow you to review your reports and determine the accuracy of the report. While there is no fee for the credit report, there is a fee to get your credit score.

    You may access your report in three ways:

  • Phone: Call 877-322-8228.
  • Web: Visit www.annualcreditreport.com.
  • Mail: Request a packet of information, including a form to be filled out for mailing, by contacting your local University of Missouri Extension office. (See contact information on page 4 of this newsletter.)
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    Sherron Hancock, MS
    Consumer & Family Economics Specialist
    HancockS@missouri.edu


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    University of Missouri Extension Editor: Roxanne T. Miller
    MillerRT@missouri.edu