Step-by-step guide to free credit reports

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One in four consumers has credit report errors ranging from minor mistakes to outrageous oversights.

Your credit report affects your mortgage rates, loan approvals, apartment requests, and even job applications. If you don’t review your credit reports at least yearly, you could end up spending a lot more money.

I’ll show you in 6 simple steps how to request your free credit reports. You’ll make sure your credit is accurate for you to get the best loans, and catch signs of identity theft early. Plus you’ll learn to avoid the extra junk and add-ons credit bureaus try to get you to buy.

Canada Residents

If you live in Canada you can discover how to get your free credit report.

Step 1: Visit the ONLY legitimate free credit report website

AnnualCreditReport.com is the only free site authorized by Federal law to provide you with a free credit report – no strings attached.

While there are other sites out there that might claim to give you a free credit report – just ignore them. AnnualCreditReport.com is the only site you need to visit.

On the homepage click the big red button that says ‘Request your free credit reports.’

AnnualCreditReport.com homepage

Step 2: Read about the process to request your free credit report

Ok, this article tells you there are six steps, but on this page it says there are only three steps. I’ve added a few extra steps to make it easier to explain to you what’s happening.

The page says you will need to:

  1. Fill out a form
  2. Pick the reports you want (you want all 3)
  3. Request and review your reports online

You don’t get all three reports at once. You request one, view it, then request the next one, view it, then finally request/view the third one.

Again – click the big red button ‘Request your credit reports’ to get going.

Free Credit Reports Steps

Step 3: Fill out a form

On this form fill out your personal contact information.

It’s ok to enter your social security number. You have to enter it in order to get your credit report. It’s a secure site.

Form to fill out to get your free credit reports

What if I have a security freeze on my credit at any of the three credit bureaus? 

Before you can request your free annual credit report, temporarily remove the security freeze. If you don’t have a security freeze check out this post on how a security freeze can prevent identity theft.

I have security freezes at every bureau and had to pay the $10 to get the freeze listed so I could bring you this tutorial! The sacrifices I make for you guys…

Step 4: Pick the reports you want

Select all three reports unless you have a specific reason not to.

A specific reason might be that one of the bureaus had an error on your report, and you want to verify it’s cleaned up. Read this great post on how to report an error on your credit report.

Select the credit reports to review

Step 5: Review your first credit report

I’m reviewing Equifax here. The website is asking me to verify the last 4 of my social security number. Enter that information then press ‘Click to Continue’.

Equifax free credit report form

Step 5b: Verification

Each credit bureau will ask you for additional information to make sure someone isn’t trying to steal your identity. Answer the security questions then press ‘Click to Continue’.

Some of the questions may be digging back to accounts you opened years ago. For Equifax, I was presented with questions about bank accounts five years old. Banks can be bought/sold/renamed over time so you may find yourself entering ‘None of the above’ for many or even all of the questions.

For TransUnion, I was asked about an old phone number in a state I hadn’t lived in for ten years. Do you remember your old phone numbers from 10+ years ago? I don’t.

If you fail the security questions, the credit report can be requested by mail. I failed my Equifax security test!

I passed TransUnion though. So for the rest of the article I’m showing the TransUnion screenshots.

Confirm your identity for your credit report

Step 6: Review your information

For security purposes, I’m not going to show you my credit report. At this point, you can view/download your report.

Check your report information for accuracy

Download it now and save it to your computer!

If your browser closes or your computer crashes, your free credit report is gone. You only get one free credit report annually. If you want another, you will have to pay for it.

I repeat – Download it now and save it to your computer!

Repeat for each credit report

Once you have viewed one of your credit reports, go back to the top of the webpage and click ‘Get your next report or finish’. The browser will send you to the next credit bureau for you to request your next free credit report.

Rinse and repeat

Gotchas – Avoid the junk being sold to you.

Look at the TransUnion credit report screen. Yes, you get your credit report but you’ll also see links for Score and ID Theft.

Garbage you don't need

Score

The only credit score that is important is your FICO score. You don’t need the TransUnion service, especially since they want to charge you $29.95 a month to get it!!!

Oh, they do have an option for you to purchase a ‘TransUnion Credit Score’ for $9.95. But look a the mice type:

Note: Our Credit Score may not use the same credit scoring model used by a lender when making a lending decision.

Could you read that? No, of course not. They don’t want you to. Try again:

Note: Our Credit Score may not use the same credit scoring model used by a lender when making a lending decision.

Lenders are looking at your FICO score. Not whatever the TransUnion Credit Score is.

What about ID Theft?

Check out the screenshot for this product. ‘ID Theft: A Nightmare with Real Consequences.’

The only theft is between TransUnion and your wallet if you buy this service.

The only nightmare you’ll have from this garbage product is the money you’re wasting each month. Put a permanent security freeze on your accounts. Nightmare over.

What if I find an error?

On the TransUnion screen is a big yellow button that says ‘Initiate a Dispute.’ As I cover in how to dispute an error on your credit report, do not file a dispute online. You want to do it in writing and send your request via certified mail to prove someone has viewed your request.

File a credit report dispute in writing - not online.

  • Do you want the best mortgage rates?
  • Do you want the best loan rates?
  • Do you want that apartment you’re applying to live?
  • Do you want that next job?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you must stay on top of your credit reports – at least once a year.

If a big life change is coming up that you’re aware of like buying a home in six months, you need to order your credit reports today and start reviewing them.

When you have a great credit score and a clean credit report you’re more employable and a better risk for lenders. AnnualCreditReport.com is simple to check, and it’s free!.

Question: When did you last request your free annual credit report and was it accurate? Please leave a comment below

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