Have you received your free credit reports this year?

I get on my soap box this time of year to remind you to get free copies of your credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You are entitled to receive a free credit report from each company every twelve months, according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).  Have you ordered any this year? If not, go to www.annualcreditreport.com to get your free report.   Did I say free?  Unfortunately free scores are not included.

Free from certain states

In addition, seven states have laws that give you one free credit report annually from all three companies.  The states are Colorado, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey,  and Vermont. If you are a resident of one of these states, you get one for the federal law and one for the state law, which is two a year per company, or six free a year.  Georgia is two per year.

Small number takes advantage

According to the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA), a trade group representing the credit reporting agencies, approximately 30 million free credit reports are delivered annually through annualcreditreport.com.  This equates to approximately 15.9 million individual consumers, because many consumers request their credit report from more than one of the credit reporting agencies.  Since there are approximately 200 million U.S. consumers with credit reports, this means that only about 8 percent are taking advantage of this.

Reasons to check

Why should you check your credit report?  For errors, potential identity theft and to know what is in your credit report. You should review your credit report annually just to make sure there aren’t any problems.  I recommend getting your report from all three companies, because the data can differ and you need to check for errors at each.   If you find errors, there is a dispute process to follow to have the information investigated.

You will have to provide personal information such as name, address, date of birth and social security number to get your free reports. This information is required to locate your credit report and for verification purposes.  Keep in mind that it is a secure site.

Since this is the time of year that you are shopping for the holidays, so check out your credit before you start spending.  Again, it is free.  There aren’t too many things out there for free anymore.

Credit Damage Expert, John Ulzheimer, is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.  He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.  Follow him on Twitter here.

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