On April 2, the Federal Trade Commission implemented new rules that require websites advertising free reports to direct consumers to the government-approved www.annualcreditreport.com. On September 1, television and radio ads must do the same.
Prior to the new rule, “free credit reports” was a relative term, because the ads often did not disclose the advertised free report was part of a package of services that could cost as much as $14.95 per month. Many consumers did not realize they could get the free report without signing up for any other services.
You are entitled to one free copy of your credit report every year from each of the credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. In addition, you can request a free report if you are a victim of identity fraud or unemployed and looking for work. You can also request a free copy if you think your report has errors or if you believe it has been used against you.
All three agencies publish similar information, however lenders do not report data to all three, so differences can arise. So who’s looking at your report? Only banks, debt collectors, landlords or those with a valid interest can pull your credit reports. Potential employers can also request credit reports for potential employees, usually when filling positions that have access to sensitive financial information.
As you probably know, your credit report forms the basis for your credit score. However, it’s important to know that you can have more than one credit score. FICO is the most widely known, but VantageScore has also gained popularity. All three credit bureaus sell both scores to lenders. The version you’ll get depends on the credit bureau you go to. TransUnion sells both while Equifax sells only FICO and Experian sells only VantageScore to consumers.
In today’s economic conditions, it’s more important than ever to protect and keep track of your credit report and credit score. Your ability to obtain a loan as well as your next job could depend on it!