In this article:
Identity theft and fraud protection for your finances, personal info, and devices.
Can You Really Get a Credit Report For Free?
Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you are allowed a free copy of your credit report from each of the bureaus at your request once every 12 months.
Your credit report details where you live, how you pay your bills, whether you’ve been sued or filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide credit reporting companies sell this information to creditors, insurers, employers and other businesses to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment or renting a home.
Having access to this information yourself allows you to ensure that everything is correct and up-to-date. For this reason, it can also help protect you from the damages of identity theft.
Thieves can use your Social Security Number or credit card number to open a new line of credit in your name and fraudulently use your identity. That can affect your ability to rent a house, apply for credit or get a job in the future.
So, how can you access your free credit report? Here’s a guide to ordering yours.
Get a Free Credit Report Online
The three nationwide credit reporting companies set up a central website, annualcreditreport.com, for easy access to your report.
You can order all three at once, or you can request them at different times. That’s entirely up to you.
Some experts recommend staggering your requests over the 12 month period to keep an eye on your credit, others say requesting them all at once can help you find any inaccuracies.
While it’s convenient to be able to get this information online, it’s also important to beware of imposter credit reporting websites. There is only one site authorized to provide this information to you, and any other company claiming to offer free credit reports or scores are not under the legally mandated free annual credit report program.
Some sites will claim to be free, but convert into a paid service after a trial period.
In even worse scenarios, these sites will purposely use a misspelled version of “annualcreditreport.com” to trick you into divulging your personal information.
You should also be aware that the official credit report website will never email you asking for your personal information.
If you encounter any such email, pop-up message or phone call, you should report it to both the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
Get a Free Credit Report By Phone Or Mail
If you prefer, you can also obtain your free annual credit report by phone or through the mail. The credit reporting companies also have a joint toll-free number you can call or a form that you can fill out and mail to the Annual Credit Report Request Service.
Here's what information you'll need to provide
In order to get your free credit report, you will need to provide your:
- Social Security number (SSN)
- Date of birth.
If you’ve recently moved, you might also need to provide your previous address. You may also be asked a security question to ensure the validity of your identity, like how much your monthly mortgage payment is, but these questions vary depending on the company.
What Should You Do If You See An Error on Your Credit Report?
If you find any inaccuracies on your report, you should contact both the credit reporting company and the information provider. Under the FCRA, they are obligated to correct or update that information.
If you think the error on your credit report is due to identity theft or fraud, you need to act quickly and follow these steps:
- Request a credit freeze with all three credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax – to stop any further damage from fraud.
- Update your online passwords to be more secure. Use a secure password manager to keep track of your new passwords and set up 2FA using an authenticator app(not SMS).
- Notify your bank and any impacted lenders and companies of the fraud. This will help limit your liability to financial fraud.
- Report the fraud on IdentityTheft.gov. Repairing your credit will require an official identity theft report.
- File a police report with local law enforcement. Along with your FTC affidavit, a report from your local police department may be required to claim damages.
- Set up credit monitoring to automatically alert you of any suspicious activity or new accounts opened in your name.
- Follow these steps to repair your credit after identity theft.
💡 Learn more: What Is a Credit Freeze? Can It Protect You From Fraud? →
The Bottom Line: Protect Your Credit With Identity Guard
Accessing your free annual credit report is a right that can help you protect yourself against identity theft. However, you can only do this once a year from each of the credit reporting bureaus leaving you a small window to detect any fraud.
Boost your own personal security by investing in an identity theft protection solution like Identity Guard.
Identity Guard monitors your most sensitive financial information — including your credit score updates, bank account, investment accounts, and credit card.
If we notice any suspicious activity, we'll alert you in near real-time and connect you with our team of 24/7 U.S.-based Fraud Resolution specialists so you can shut down the fraudsters before they do too much damage.
Plus, every Identity Guard account is also covered by a $1M insurance policy for eligible losses related to identity theft incidents.