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How To Get Your Free Yearly Credit Reports Without Getting Scammed

Without a doubt you have probably seen many advertisements on TV and online which emphasize the importance of your credit rating. While these advertisements may be a bit of an exaggeration, your credit report is never-the-less important as it details accounts which have been opened in your name. As such, it is a good idea to periodically review your credit report as any suspicious activity could be an indication of identity theft.

On that note, did you know that US law entitles you to free credit report from each of the three major reporting bureaus every year? Here we will walk you through exactly how to get them.

Image by Fosforix

Credit Report vs. Credit Score

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) site explains where you can get your free credit reports:

AnnualCreditReport.com is the ONLY authorized source for the free annual credit report that’s yours by law. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you access to your credit report for free from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – every 12 months. The Federal Trade Commission has received complaints from consumers who thought they were ordering their free annual credit report, and yet couldn’t get it without paying fees or buying other services. TV ads, email offers, or online search results may tout “free” credit reports, but there is only one authorized source for a truly free credit report.

It is important to note that you are getting credit reports from the reporting agencies, not a credit score. Your credit report simply shows you a list of past and present accounts in your name (which should be consistent across all three agencies) while your credit score is numeric representation of this information and can vary between the different agencies, depending. So essentially you are getting the information behind the score, but not the score itself.

If you want to see your credit score from any or all of the reporting bureaus, these are not free and would have to be purchased individually.

Using Annual Credit Report

Overall the process pretty intuitive, however as you navigate through each of the credit agencies, you are presented with upsell links to purchase either your credit score or credit monitoring. As we go through the sites, we will highlight areas which attempt to sell you to these (non-free) services.

Prior to starting this process, we highly recommend having a PDF printer on your system so you can save a copy of your credit reports for your records. If you do not already have one installed, follow our guide for installing a PDF printer first.

When you go to AnnualCreditReport.com, select the state where you current live and click Request Report.

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You will need to provide some personal information so fill out the form and click Continue. For your convenience, this information will be automatically sent to each credit agency which you request a report from so you don’t have to retype it.

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When prompted for credit bureaus, select all three and click Next.

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Before visiting the first selection, you will be prompted with a notice of how to navigate back to AnnualCreditReport.com from within the credit agency’s site. Click Next to get your first credit report.

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TransUnion

When you visit TransUnion, the information you see along the bottom in the “Information You Have Provided” section should mimic what you first entered in AnnualCreditReport.com. Verify this is correct and click Continue.

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Next you will be presented some security questions regarding your credit history. These are to verify your identity so answer them accordingly and click Next.

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Finally, you will get to the credit report. You can view this information here but we recommend you view the printer friendly version and save it to a PDF file for your records.

Note: There are a couple of upsell links on this page. If you would like to get your credit score, remember it will only be for TransUnion.

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Once you have saved your credit report, click the Return to AnnualCreditReport.com link across the top.

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Again, make sure you have saved or printed your report before continuing.

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Experian

When you are transferred back to AnnualCreditReport.com, Experian is next on the list. Click Next.

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Experian will require you to initially identify yourself. Fill in the value as appropriate and click Submit.

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On the first step of the wizard, click Annual Credit Report.

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Step 2 will confirm your order for the free credit report. Click Submit.

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As the final step, Experian will ask a series of verification questions regarding your history. Answer these appropriately and click Continue.

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On the summary page, click the “Print your report” link on the right side. This will open a new window containing your credit report for review. We recommend saving this to a PDF file for your records.

Note: There are upsell links along the bottom.

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Once you have saved your credit report, click the Return to AnnualCreditReport.com link across the top.

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Again, make sure you have printed or saved your report and click OK.

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Equifax

The final credit bureau, Equifax, will be selected when you return to AnnualCreditReport.com. Click Next.

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Equifax will mirror the information you first entered on AnnualCreditReport.com. Verify this is accurate and click Continue.

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The first step will ask the security questions. Answer these and click Continue.

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Step 2 will confirm your order for the free credit report. Click Submit Order Now.

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On the final step, you are presented with the option to view your report. Click the View / Print Your Report button.

Note: There is an option to create an account as well as upsell link for your credit score and monitoring. Again, keep in mind this is only for Equifax.

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In the View/Print report screen, click the “Print Report” link. After reviewing your report, be sure to save it to a PDF file for your records.

Note: There is another upsell link on this page to purchase your Equifax credit score.

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Once you have saved your credit report, click the Return to AnnualCreditReport.com link across the top. You will not get a warning notice after clicking this link so be sure you have printed or saved your report.

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AnnualCreditReport.com will now show you have visited all three reporting agencies. Click Close to finish.

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Conclusion

Keep in mind, this process can only be run for free once a year. Be sure to mark your calendar for next year so you will know the next time you are due to run your free reports.

Jason Faulkner is a developer and IT professional who never has a hot cup of coffee far away. Interact with him on Google+

  • Published 01/24/12

Comments (26)

  1. Kevin

    So what do you do when one or more of the companies tells you that they have already given you your yearly credit report even though it has been over 2 years since you have actually done so? I have yet to have a good experience trying to work with Experian.

  2. Jason Faulkner

    @Kevin – That sounds like suspicious activity to me. I’ve been using this service for the past 4 years and as long as you wait at least 365 days between requests, you shouldn’t have a problem.

  3. Harvey Hawley

    Hmm, possibly of interest to your readers from the US of A.

    Perhaps you should flag these parochial articles with a waving stars and stripes?

  4. Ron

    Just one addition. You are not required to get all your credit scores at one time, you can get one at a time. Get one from each company first it get from Experian then in 3 months get from Transunion, then get the last 3 months later. Then 3 months later your year is over and start again. Here is a direct quote from the FTC web site

    “No matter how you request your report, you have the option to request all three reports at once or to order one report at a time. By requesting the reports separately, you can monitor your credit more frequently throughout the year.”

  5. Justin

    Another suggestion: stagger obtaining the reports through the year to better guard against any suspicious activity against your credit. For example, obtain Experian in Jan, Transunion in June, Equifax in Oct.

  6. Jason Faulkner

    @Ron / @Justin – Great suggestion.

  7. amnisl

    @Ron – you would want to do it every 4 months to make that work. If you only put 3 months between then you would have to wait 6 months (not 3) after the third report to get the first one again.

  8. Justin weldon

    A site I have had good luck with also is creditkharma.com I believe I may have the spelling wrong. But it has been good for me.

  9. Ron

    Math without coffee sometimes don’t work :-)

  10. Rob

    Do not trust Equifax!! I signed up for credit monitoring with Equifax it was and still is a nightmare. First they promised a reduced fee for the first month, that didn’t happen I was charged a full fee three times !!!!
    Then I could never access my credit report, they kept telling me they had tech. Difficulties. When I asked to cancel the account that was another joke, theses guys will rip you off, they still owe me $50.00

  11. Rogue

    I do this but only one every four months. That way I get all three reports spread out in a 12 month time period.

  12. Michael

    Apparently, creditkarma.com is being flagged as potential spam… I’ve tried to leave a comment three times, and it keeps getting rejected by your spam filter. If this makes it through, it’s something else. This subject seems to trigger your spam rejection filter a bit more assertively in my opinion…

  13. Michael

    Hmm… made it through. Get an estimated credit score, not just a credit report, from creditkarma.com. Their estimate is very close to what the reporting agencies will give, it’s free, and it does not affect your score like a lender’s request will.

  14. sixgood

    how about UK residents using this service .How?

  15. Bruce

    If you are married, you both get 3 per year, so by alternating between spouses and credit reporting companies, you can check every 2 months!

  16. William R. (Bill) Harvey

    Article and all above comments very good, esp Bruce’s–I never thought about doubling up by switching between mine and wife’s!
    But I haven’t heard anyone complain about Experian always weaseling out of giving your report on line. Every time I do their report, after providing all the info, answering all their questions, they always say that for some reason (I forget how they put it), I have to download the paper request form, fill it out, and mail it in, along with several proofs of identity. What a hassle!

  17. Anon

    That is a lot of crap, wouldn’t it be easier to spend 5 bucks for gas and go drive to some place that does this?

    I took a glance at a bunch of screenshots for different websites above, I wouldn’t recommend anyone going to a bunch of sites and giving them your detail information.

  18. Jason Faulkner

    @Anon – These companies already have all the info you provide. I don’t see what the issue is.

    Using your argument, why would you “spend 5 bucks for gas and go drive to some place that does this” when you are going to have to give “some place that does this” all the same information?

  19. jthelw

    Appreciate the UPSELL ALERTS!! No matter how smart (you think) you are, these guys are trying to trip you up.
    I, too don’t trust Experian. They charged me $1.00 for a credit report that I never requested, then started trying to charge $19.95 for a service that I didn’t order, either. I had to change my credit card number.

  20. TsarNikky

    Instead of getting all 3 reports at once, how about staggering each of the major bureaus by 4 months? This way, you get to see a report every four months. Usually, all three bureaus will be showing the same information.

    Regrettably, trying to reach a human being in the US is next to impossible. My “hell” was with Experian; but I see by other comments that Experian can be included. Is TransUnion far behind? This is precisely the kind of arrogant behavior that mandates more Federal regulation.

  21. Anon

    @J – Oh really? like to know how a company I never heard of has my info. Not being a hole but I’d like to know how they have/got my info. They shouldn’t even have it until I authorize signing my info over, I have never had signed over my info nor have I did a credit check in my life. hmm. no need for me to check though, thousands of hospital bills went to credit collection which tells me what my credit is. Country should have free health care, then I might be interested in checking my credit. Thanks USA for the wonderful gift of bad credit!

    Gotta use a credit card to check credit? By what jthelw said, sound like so. If so I just lold.

  22. Anonymous

    I don’t know why anyone would do this. USE THE PHONE!

    Do you know what cookies these web sites are putting on your computer are or what they can reveal? Do you know what an LSO is? Have you even (correctly) checked your system for malware/trojans/viruses before going online? You might think twice if you even knew the basics. You might run screaming into the streets if you knew just how insecure the transmission of your data is too – not just the storing of it either.

    And even when you do hear about a companies “devotion to security” and how they take the “storing of your information seriously,” how often do you hear them say words like site certificate or certifying authority or even simple old browser encryption? Almost never. Right?! And you can bet your last dollar than none of them will assist you in making sure your end is secure. So why do business with them? They’re idiots!

    Sure. The chance that some criminal will get your info is small. After all, it always happens to the other guy. RIGHT?! And any security risk online is even smaller when you take obvious precautions like making sure secure web sites use encryption and show HTTPS and not HTTP. But why even put yourself at risk? Cause if you don’t fully understand how a criminal can take your info then you really should not divulge it. In fact, you should use low-tech methods whenever possible such as using a wired land-line telephone to call in and request your credit report. Or better yet, do it in person – assuming you even can.

    ANY time someone other than the Social Security Department asks you for your SS# you should be very alert and thinking at least five times why they even want it before answering. That’s your financial LIFE you’re trusting to someone or some THING!

    Don’t be stupid sheep. Don’t request credit reports over the internet where someone could be watching what you’re doing (no matter how low the risk is). Don’t be absolute schmucks either and do anything sensitive over public wifi at the local coffee shop either. Cause if you do really stupid stuff like that then you’re just asking to be robbed in a way that will never stop.

  23. vj

    I work overseas and creditreport.com doesn’t allow foreign IP’s to access the report, anyway to access my report from abroad ?
    Thanks

  24. mynameisjohn

    What spammy words was I using???!

  25. yourPFpro

    If you are interested in getting your credit score, Credit Karma is the way to go, completely free. To get a report, I think most people know about the once a year free credit report. You can also get a free copy anytime you apply for a line of credit. I just updated my blog with a post about maintaining your credit score. Check it out at http://www.yourPFpro.com

    -PF pro

  26. Stephen

    I have a quick question. I just went to the annualcreditreport website and ordered all 3 of my credit reports. I had no problem accessing the first one, from TransUnion. However, when I went to click on the “Return to annualcreditreport.com” link as the site suggested, it took me back to the main front page, not the one you show here where it has only one listed as “Visited”.

    I then went through the identity verification on Equifax and it said “Unable to provide credit report online at this time” but they offered to do so by mail, if I mailed in a form and my documents. I then clicked on the “Return to annualcreditreport.com” link, and tried Experian. Before it got to the income verification, it said I had already accessed my credit report and would have to pay for another one.

    Any ideas of how to get this issue resolved? This has never happened to me before in the past. Your help is much appreciated! Thanks!

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