The Catholic University of America

Consumer Credit Frequently Asked Questions

 

Free Annual Credit Report
All consumers can receive free annual credit reports through the site www.annualcreditreport.com.

The site was created by the national credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union) in response to requirements of the Fair and Accurate Transactions (FACT) Act.  

The web site provides a convenient method of requesting a report from one, two, or all three of the credit bureaus.  Reports can be viewed via site or received by telephone or mail.  The site provides instructions for all three delivery methods.

Credit bureaus caution that www.annualcreditreport.com is the only site authorized to provide free credit reports. Consumers should not provide personal information to other companies or sites purporting to provide free credit reports.

How do I request a fraud alert be placed on my file?

You have the right to ask that nationwide consumer credit reporting companies place "fraud alerts" in your file to let potential creditors and others know that you may be a victim of identity theft. A fraud alert can make it more difficult for someone to get credit in your name because it tells creditors to follow certain procedures to protect you. It also may delay your ability to obtain credit. You may place a fraud alert in your file by calling just one of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies. As soon as that agency processes your fraud alert, it will notify the other two, which then also must place fraud alerts in your file.
     

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com
Experian: 1-888-397-3742; www.experian.com/fraud
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com

An initial fraud alert stays in your file for at least 90 days. An extended alert stays in your file for seven years. To place either of these alerts, a consumer credit reporting company will require you to provide appropriate proof of your identity, which may include your Social Security number. If you ask for an extended alert, you will have to provide an identity theft report. An identity theft report includes a copy of a report you have filed with a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency. For more detailed information about the identity theft report, visit http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft2012/


What is a credit file disclosure?

A credit file disclosure provides you with all of the information in your credit file maintained by a consumer reporting company that could be provided by the consumer reporting company in a consumer report about you to a third party, such as a lender. A credit file disclosure also includes a record of everyone who has received a consumer report about you from the consumer reporting company within a certain period of time ("inquiries"). The credit file disclosure includes certain information that is not included in a consumer report about you to a third party, such as the inquiries of companies for pre-approved offers of credit or insurance and account reviews, and any medical account information which is suppressed for third party users of consumer reports. You are entitled to receive a disclosure copy of your credit file from a consumer reporting company under Federal law and the laws of various states.


How often can I request a free credit file disclosure through this website?

You are entitled to receive one free credit file disclosure every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This free credit file can be requested through this website, by phone or by mail.


How else can I request my free annual credit file disclosure?

If free credit reports are available in your state through the Annual Credit Report Request Service, you can request a free annual credit report by phone or mail and it will be mailed within 15 days. However, you can receive a report immediately by using this secure website. Click the links for information on how to request a free annual credit report by phone or mail.

Should I order all my credit file disclosures at one time or space them out over 12 months?

You are entitled to receive one free credit file disclosure every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies through the Central Source. It is entirely your choice whether you order all three credit file disclosures at the same time or order one now and others later. The advantage of ordering all three at the same time is that you can compare them. (However, you will not be eligible for another free credit file disclosure from the Central Source for 12 months.) On the other hand, the advantage of ordering one now and others later (for example, one credit file disclosure every four months) is that you can keep track of any changes or new information that may appear on your credit file disclosure. Remember, you are entitled to receive one free credit file disclosure through the Central Source every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – so if you order from only one company today you can still order from the other two companies at a later date.


What is a credit score?

A credit score is a complex mathematical model that evaluates many types of information in a credit file. A credit score is used by a lender to help determine whether a person qualifies for a particular credit card, loan, or service. Most credit scores estimate the risk a company incurs by lending a person money or providing them with a service –– specifically, the likelihood that the person will make payments on time in the next two to three years. Generally, the higher the score, the less risk the person represents.


How can I get my credit score?

You can purchase a credit score by contacting one of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies.
Equifax - www.equifax.com
Experian - www.experian.com
TransUnion - www.transunion.com
You can also purchase a credit score when you request your free annual credit report through this website.


What about companies that claim they can improve my credit report for a fee?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cautions consumers to be wary of companies that make claims regarding credit repair. These companies, commonly called credit clinics, don't do anything for consumers that consumers cannot do for themselves at little or no cost. Beware of any organization that offers to create a new identity and credit file for you. The FTC and state attorneys general have filed actions against those who pursue these fraudulent practices. Here are some warning signs that the FTC and others say consumers should look out for to determine if they might be dealing with a credit clinic:

  • An organization that guarantees to remove late payments, bankruptcies, or similar information from a credit report
  • An organization that charges a lot of money to repair credit
  • A company that asks the consumer to write to the credit reporting company and repeatedly seek verification of the same credit account information in the file, month after month, even though the information has been determined to be correct
  • An organization that is reluctant to give out their address or one that pushes you to make a decision immediately

For a helpful brochure about credit clinics, you can write to the Federal Trade Commission, Sixth and Pennsylvania Avenues, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20004 and request a brochure titled "Credit Repair: Self Help May Be Best."


Am I entitled to a free credit report under state law?

In addition to consumers who are eligible for a free credit file disclosure through the Annual Credit Report Request Service; consumers in some states are eligible for a free credit file disclosure under state law. The following states have laws that make free credit reports available to consumers: Colorado, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont.


How do I contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)?

Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
Room 130
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20580
www.ftc.gov/credit

How can I provide a suggestion or complaint about the Annual Credit Report Request Service or this website?

Please see Contact Us section for contact information.

How do I request a credit report by mail for a child under 13 years of age?

The credit reporting agencies do not knowingly maintain credit files on minor children. If you suspect that your minor child's information has been used fraudulently, you should contact the credit reporting agencies directly and report the illegal use of your child's information to law enforcement. Please supply each credit reporting agency with your child's complete name, address, date of birth and a copy of the minor child's birth certificate and social security card. Additionally, please provide a copy of your driver's license or other government-issued proof of your identity, which includes your current address, and a current utility bill containing your current address so the credit reporting agencies may promptly respond to your request. The addresses for the credit reporting agencies are listed below:

Equifax
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, Georgia 30374

Experian
P.O. Box 9532
Allen, Texas 75013

TransUnion
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834


How secure is my information?

The Annual Credit Report Request Service recognizes the importance of secure online transactions, and takes steps to safeguard the privacy of information you provide through online forms. For your online requests for free credit file disclosures, programs encrypt the information you provide on the request form before transmission to the selected nationwide consumer credit reporting company(ies). This information is decrypted only upon receipt by the selected credit reporting company(ies). Physical, electronic and procedural safeguards designed to guard your personally identifiable information are maintained.

To help ensure the privacy and protection of your personal information, it is recommended that you do not access the Annual Credit Report Request Service through links from unfamiliar websites. We recommend that you access the Annual Credit Report Request Service directly at www.annualcreditreport.com.

Further, the site’s security protocols and measures are designed to protect the personally identifiable information you provide from unauthorized access or alteration. These measures include physical security, technological security measures and encryption of certain information.

Is it safe to provide my Social Security Number to AnnualCreditReport.com?

You must enter your Social Security Number to receive a free credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com. The site’s security protocols and measures are designed to protect the personally identifiable information you provide from unauthorized access or alteration. As an added security measure, you can choose to have your credit report display no more than the last four digits of your Social Security number.

See answer to "How secure is my information?" above for more information.

How does the online authentication process work?

To assure that your credit file is disclosed only to you, the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies will authenticate your identity utilizing the personal identification information you provide on this site, including, but not limited to, your Social Security number, and then require that you answer certain questions. For your protection, if your identity cannot be authenticated for online delivery of your credit report, you will receive further instructions on how to request your report for delivery by the U.S. Postal Service. Failure to authenticate for online delivery of your annual credit file disclosure is not an indicator of fraudulent activity or identity theft.
 
What should I do if I suspect I have received a fraudulent e-mail regarding this service?

If you suspect you have received a fraudulent e-mail, please contact us immediately by using the Consumer Comment Form

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