In accordance with a recent amendment to the federal governments Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the three nation wide consumer reporting companies will be required to give customers free credit reports. This will allow consumers to access their credit reports for free once every twelve months. The new law will be laid out in four demographical phases in a nine month period. The first of which has already taken effect on the west coast as of December 1, 2004. All areas of the United States will offer free reports by September 1, 2005. The state by state lay out is as follows.
Western States, now available (December 1, 2004)
Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
Midwestern States, now available (March 1, 2005)
Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota,Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
Southern States, now available (June 1, 2005)
Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas
Eastern States, available September 1, 2005
Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. This phase also includes the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and all U.S. Territories.
Many consumers do not know or understand the importance of reviewing their credit reports. Credit reports contain information on the consumer credit scores, payment history, bankruptcy information, as well tons of other information. Information on someone’s credit report can effect whether or not they can receive a loan or how much will have to be put down as a down payment. Knowing this information can make the consumer better prepared to implement appropriate plans to getting their credit on the right path. You can also protect yourself against identity theft. Reviewing credit reports can inform you if there are loans or credit card open in your name by an unknown person.
To access a free credit report consumers will need to request it through on of the three nation wide consumer credit companies when the service is available in the state of residency. The three companies should not be contacted individually; they are all only offering the service through www.annualcreditreport.com, or send in a credit report request form, www.ftc.gov/credit, to the Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA, 30348-5281. Consumers can also order reports over the phone by calling 1-877-322-8228. Only one free report can be offered per consumer in a twelve moth period. You can however order reports through each of the three nation wide companies from the web site listed above. Since each of the companies gather their information from different sources the law allows consumers to order reports from one, two, or all three of the national services.
Personal information must be given to order credit reports. This includes your name, Social Security number, address, as well as date of birth. Previous addressed information is usually required if you have moved in the last couple of years. It is also not uncommon for companies to verify identification by asking questions that could not be answered by anyone but the customer. These questions could include personal income information, mortgage payment amounts, etc.
Credit reports are accessible immediately through annualcreditreport.com. If you order your report over the phone at 1-877-322-8228, the request is usually processed and mailed to you within fifteen days. If ordered by mailing in a credit report request form, www.ftc.gov/credit, your report will be mailed to you within fifteen days after the request is received.
There are other instances where you, the consumer, can obtain a free credit report. These cases include denial of a loan, credit line, employment opportunity, or insurance from a company. Requests for the free credit report must be submitted within sixty days after the institution in question hands out a denial notice. The action notice will provide the name, phone number and address of the consumer company in which information on you had been gathered. You can also receive one free credit report a year if you are unemployed and plan to see a job within sixty days, as long as you are not on welfare or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud. In any other case, consumers may be charged up to $15.00 by companies for additional credit reports within the same twelve moth period. Purchases of your credit report can be done through the three nation wide companies.