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How you can get access to your free instant credit report online

Surveys have uncovered a startling fact: close to 1 out of 4 credit reports contain errors that could result in the denial of credit, such as false delinquencies or accounts that never did belong to the customer.

But now you can fight back. Working from your own home computer, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the nation's three major credit bureaus once every 12 months.

You can request your credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion from a single, jointly operated web site, address or phone number. You'll note similarities in the credit reports, and you'll be startled at the inconsistenties you'll probably find there. You can get your reports from all three bureaus at one sitting, or stagger your requests throughout the year, say once every four months.

Free credit reports have been mandated by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, the reincarnation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This new law also requires the bureaus to offer customers, for a reasonable cost, a credit score based on the information in their report, along with an explanation of the key factors used to calculate the score.

Most lenders charge interest rates that are tied to an individual's credit score. Generally, the higher the credit score, the lower the interest rate. So it pays to keep good credit!

People who take the time to check their credit reports on a regular basis with this instant service, are more likely to spot and fix potentially costly errors, as well as foiling the efforts of identity thieves.

Accessing your credit information could allow the credit bureaus the opportunity to market other services when you request their free credit report, as long as such advertising does not interfere with your ability to get the report.

To request your report, go to (the address must be typed in your browser).

You can also request a free report by calling (877) 322-8228 or mail your request to P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

It is best to make the request from home, where you will have privacy and the documents you may need to verify your identity. It isn't wise to use a public library computer or access the free website from a wireless public system on your laptop. Too easy for identity thieves to steal your data.

At, you will need to first enter some basic information identifying yourself, such as your name, address, Social Security number and your date of birth.

You will pick the bureau or bureaus from which you want a report.

Most nationwide lenders report your loan-payment information to all three bureaus, but smaller lenders may report to only one. After selecting each bureau, you will be asked some questions to verify your identity. For example, you may have to identify a previous home mortgage payment, or the balance you have on one of your credit cards.

After your identity is verified, you will get an instant online copy of your credit report, along with directions on how to correct an error. (People who request a report by phone or mail may have to wait up to two weeks.)

Your credit report can then be printed or copied into a computer file.

You also will be asked if you want to buy a credit score and whether you want to sign up for or purchase any additional services.

If you opt for additional services, even if they are free, you will become a customer of the credit bureau and could start receiving other marketing pitches.

If all you want is your credit report and score, you should not be bothered with marketing messages again. You'll probably want to mark your calendar for next year when you'll be able to access your free instant credit report again.

To learn how to fix your credit score, visit our free credit repair page at


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