Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 5, 2018

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A person’s credit report contains information on where they live, how they pay their bills, and also reports whether a person has been sued or arrested, has court judgments or has filed for bankruptcy. This information is accessed by potential creditors to determine whether and under what terms they will extend credit when a consumer applies, as well as by potential employers, landlords and generally anyone with a legitimate business need. For these reasons and others, it is critically important that a person monitor their credit report and correct any mistakes it may contain.

If an Agency Requires a Fee, You Don’t Have to Pay

Services offering to provide credit reports for free are everywhere, but unfortunately, most of these services either ultimately charge a fee or require some type of membership or purchase that will result in a fee later on. The good news is that consumers are entitled to review their credit report yearly at no cost, so there is no reason to pay. By law, credit reporting agencies must provide anyone who requests their credit report with a free report once a year.

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Obtaining Your Free Credit Report

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, the three national consumer credit reporting agencies, to provide each individual with a free copy of their credit report once every twelve months. The only Federal Trade Commission-authorized source for free credit reports can be found at Annual Credit Report’s website, which was set up by the big three credit reporting agencies to facilitate furnishing free credit reports according the requirements of the law. Or, you may contact them by phone at 1-877-322-8228. Credit reports are also available online, usually immediately. If ordered by phone, a report will be processed and mailed within 15 days.

You Are Entitled to Dispute Inaccuracies

The FCRA promotes the accuracy and privacy of information in the files of the nation’s consumer reporting companies. Under the law, consumers are allowed to dispute, in writing, any inaccurate or false information in a credit report, without charge. The credit reporting company has 30 days to investigate and confirm whether the information is accurate. If the reporting company made a mistake, it is legally bound to correct it and notify the other reporting companies of the need to correct the file. The company or creditor that provided the inaccurate information is barred from reporting it again.

Credit Report Resources

For information on how to get free copies of your credit reports, see Federal Trade Commission – Your Access to Free Credit Reports or  AnnualCreditReport.com. For information about how to dispute inaccuracies on your credit report, click here.