Consumer Credit

How to Obtain a Personal Credit Report Without Getting Scammed and Risking Identity Theft

Vicki A Benge

We have seen or heard them by the dozens, commercials and advertisements stressing to us how important it is to know what is on our credit report. It is important and we need to remain aware. However, regardless of what the advertisement may state whether on television, radio, in newsprint, or on the Internet, there is only one authorized source to obtain a legitimate copy of our credit report with no strings attached and without fear of being scammed or having to suffer through the nightmare of identity theft.

The Web site where U.S. citizens can download forms or apply online for a free credit report is AnnualCreditReport.com . That is the Web site the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) says is the only site authorized to furnish the information. Therefore we do not have to be concerned with scams and hidden fees.

As part of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, we are each entitled to see what the three major credit reporting agencies have on our records at least once every twelve months. These companies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, must provide the information free of charge upon request from an individual. However, a while back there were some instances where one of the companies was trying to charge approximately eighty dollars a year to monitor an individual's credit record. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) put a stop to that.

To bypass all the hoopla, offers, and scams, we can visit the Web site and apply online, or to avoid the possibility of our information getting hijacked in cyberspace, we can download a PDF paper form available on the site, fill it out and mail it via the postal service to their processing center in Atlanta, Georgia. Or call 877.322.8228.

Because each of the three agencies is required to fulfill the request every 12 months, we can stagger the requests among the three companies, which allows us to monitor our credit report at more frequently at regular intervals, or get all three at once. In receiving all three at once, we will have an opportunity to compare the data among the three agencies.

We need to be extremely cautious in visiting Web sites that pretend to be the legitimate one mention above, but have a letter or two rearranged in the URL address to lure us to a proxy site instead. And of course there are jillions of Web sites and companies that say they offer a free report, but intend to charge us, sometimes exorbitant fees, for their monthly credit monitoring service, if they can get us to enroll for their "free trial membership" which is oftentimes part of the deal for obtaining the report. Others will tell us there is false information on our records, but they can fix it for us, for a fee of course. And then there are the fraudulent setups that simply want to acquire our personal and financial information, especially our social security and credit card numbers for reasons we can only imagine.

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To obtain our credit report we do have to disclose our social security number and other pertinent personal identifying information and since we never never never want to give out our social security number to companies on the Internet, via the telephone or other avenues until we have investigated them thoroughly, it's best just to go through the government authorized agency. (Our government knows the information anyway.) Therefore to bypass all the hoopla, and not worry about clicking on bogus links, we can type the following URL address directly into our browser: https://www.annualcreditreport.com and go from there.

If you think someone is trying to scam you, be sure and alert the FTC. Your actions may prevent others from being scammed. The Web site of the Federal Trade Commission is www.ftc.gov/ and their mailing address is:
Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
Room 130
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20580

Also, to verify the information in this article before going further, visit the FTC's Web site and take the information directly from there. Read their article: Your Access to Free Credit Reports and make use of the other educational materials on their site regarding credit reports. It's the safest way to go.


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