The Real Deal on Free Credit Reports

Knowing what is reported in your credit reports is essential for your financial security and future. A credit report includes information about where you live, bill payment history, debt to available credit ratios, lawsuits, liens, bankruptcies and more. Bad credit can prevent you from obtaining a mortgage, renting an apartment, obtaining insurance and even finding a job.

In 2003, Congress passed the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA). The act requires that upon request, all credit-reporting agencies — including the three largest ones, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — furnish you with a free copy of your credit reports every 12 months.

The dictionary defines the term “free” as provided without or subject to a payment and given without consideration or reward such as money. When one reads or hears the term, he or she expects to get something for nothing such as a free sample, free parking or even free legal advice. Too bad that some credit report resellers apparently believe that “free” really means “free, but only with your credit card number.”

Many are all too familiar with the mind-obsessing jingles from television commercials that emphasize the importance of knowing your credit score and how one could obtain their credit report free of charge. The TV ads warned that if one did not know their credit score they could wind up living in a relative’s basement, working in a renaissance fair, or driving an old beat up car. As a result, in this age of identity theft, many went scrambling to obtain their free credit reports and secure their financial status.

A number of these so-called free credit report websites sprang up. Upon visiting, credit-cautious consumers received a prompt to enter their credit card number. All received assurances that the number was needed for identity verification, even though the fine print may have mentioned something about cancelling before a trial period expired. A week or two later, the cardholder’s account was charged for a monthly recurring fee of $14.95 or more. Later, consumers complained about how cancelling the subscription was not a straightforward exercise. Moreover, many individuals, including those at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), viewed these types of advertising practices as deceptive and misleading.

In 2009, the FTC created rules that cleaned up the confusing marketing usage of the term free. The new rules require clear disclosures. All websites that claim to offer free credit reports must state that they are not the free credit report provided by federal law. In addition, the advertisers are required to inform customers that the only place to obtain a free credit report is at

Despite the FTC rules, some imposter websites still exist. Such websites sometimes use common misspellings of in hopes that consumers will mistype the officially sanctioned website’s name. It’s important to remember, though, that the officially sanctioned website will never ask you for your credit card information. It will never send you an email asking you for personal identifying information. In fact, it will never send you email soliciting for ANYTHING, even the free credit report. If any of the above occurs, it is more than likely a fraud.

Once at the officially sanctioned website, in order to obtain your free credit reports, you will, however, need to provide your full name, social security number, date of birth as well as if you have moved in the past two years. To maintain security, you will be asked questions that only you will know the answer to. For example, you may be asked who finances your student loans or the name of a street you once resided on.

Once you receive your credit reports, closely scrutinize them for accurate, complete and up-to-date information. Inaccuracies, or even misleading and unfair information, could prevent you from obtaining low interest loans and more. More alarmingly, sometimes a credit report is the first indicator that you are a victim of identity theft.

Lexington Law can assist you in investigating or disputing any unfair, inaccurate, unverifiable, or otherwise questionable information found on your credit report. These negative entries can damage your FICO Score and limit your purchasing power. Our time-tested services incorporate innovative credit repair methodologies that make full use of your credit rights as established by several consumer protection statutes. Our services are affordable. Call us now for a free initial credit consultation.