View Full Version : It's Yours For Free

12-03-2004, 07:58 AM
A new law allows consumers to check their credit once a year without charge


Monday, Dec. 06, 2004
Your credit report affects your financial life in ways you may not imagine. It's the linchpin that determines whether you can get a mortgage, car loan or credit card and how much interest you'll pay. It influences whether you can get utilities, and whether you'll have to pay your provider a deposit. It even affects the rates you pay on homeowner's and auto insurance.

And it's often wrong. A June study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group found that a shocking 79% of credit reports contain mistakes. What's more, in 1 out of 4 reports, the mistakes are serious enough to result in a denial of credit.

The good news: starting Dec. 1, consumers in the U.S. will be allowed to receive for free one credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every 12 months, thanks to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act. It's a new benefit that should be exercised at least once a year, particularly if you're going to be applying for, say, a new mortgage. Once informed of a discrepancy, the bureaus have 45 days to fix the problem, but generally do so within 10 to 15 days.

This new entitlement will roll out gradually across the country over the next nine months, with consumers in Western states beginning first. The Midwest will go live March 1, the South June 1, and the East and U.S. Territories on Sept. 1. The three major credit bureaus Equifax, Experian and TransUnion have set up a toll-free phone line (877-322-8228) to handle requests, or you can send a written request to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, Ga., 30348-5281.

But the fastest way not only to receive your report but also to dispute inaccuracies-- is a new website, , annualcreditreport.com. (http://annualcreditreport.com/) . Don't be surprised when the site asks for personal information for security purposes (it's safe to provide it). You'll then be sent to an authentication page for the bureau you select, in which you'll be asked more questions-- about recent transactions and the size of outstanding loans. Again, providing answers is safe. The one thing to beware, however: once you've been authenticated, your report will pop up onscreen; if you close the window, it's gone, and so is your freebie for the year, so print it out immediately.

One other bit of good news: you don't have to pull your free report from all three bureaus at once. So if you want to be truly vigilant about monitoring errors, you can spread your requests throughout the year. And the bureaus may even eventually iron out the lapses in their system that lead to mistakes in the first place.

Link (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101041206-832206,00.html)

12-03-2004, 09:17 AM
Do the free reports deduct points from your ratings? Same as anytime you apply for credit and your report needs to be pulled?

12-03-2004, 11:46 AM
From what I understand , the "self inquiries" do not count against you.

12-03-2004, 01:45 PM
Thanks for posting this...I checked my credit today, with Equifax....and I don't think I'd lend myself any $$....but there's lots of lenders out there, ain't so smart.

12-04-2004, 07:16 AM
Credit report requests try consumers' patience

By Deb Kollars -- Bee Staff Writer

Published 2:15 am PST Saturday, December 4, 2004

A new law guaranteeing free annual credit reports to consumers came with the unexpected price of frustration, confusion and surprise this week.

Some Sacramentans discovered errors in their reports. Others couldn't get through on the clogged and confusing Web sites. Still others were hit with sales pitches for credit products.

One man found a passage in scrambled Latin on one of his documents. And many felt ripped off because they weren't given free personal credit scores alongside the credit reports.

"I thought this was going to be easy," said Brian Thorogood, a retiree who lives near Marconi and Watt avenues.

"I was so frustrated trying to get my own information that I didn't even try to get my wife's."

Until now, most adults in the United States had never seen their credit reports or credit scores, which are used by mortgage lenders, auto-loan makers, credit card companies, cell phone providers and other businesses to determine people's creditworthiness.

Those who did acquire their reports and scores had to pay for them in most cases.

Welcome news came Wednesday when a new federal law took hold that entitles consumers to a free annual copy of their credit reports from each of the big three credit bureaus - TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.

Initially, the bureaus fought the new requirement. They are in the business of gathering financial data on people and selling it to lenders, and said they shouldn't be forced to give away a product.

But consumer advocates pushed hard, citing a high error rate in the reports and stressing that individuals should be able to monitor their credit files without having to pay.

Congress approved the requirement last year in the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act. The companies retained their ability to charge for credit scores - the powerful three-digit numbers lenders use to determine who gets credit and what the interest rates will be.

The reports are going out on a staggered basis across the country.

People living in 13 Western states, including California, could request their reports starting Wednesday.

Other states must wait several more months.

Officials from the credit bureaus said Friday the roll-out had gone smoothly.

Some regular folks had a different story.

Greg Isenhart of Davis couldn't get the telephone prompt to accept his Social Security number: "I couldn't get past my first two digits. It kept cutting me off. I never did get a report."

Several others trying online said they got past the first several prompts, then couldn't proceed so gave up.

Later, trying again, they were told they already received a free report.

Gladys Jensen of South Land Park said she went online and felt so intimidated by all the personal questions she left the Web site, then received an e-mail from another company trying to sell her credit monitoring services.

"They're all selling something when they're supposed to be giving me a report for free," she said.

Robert Moorehead, a doctoral candidate in sociology from Davis, got his report from Equifax with ease, but was stunned when he reached the heading, "How to order your score by phone" and found a confusing passage that began, "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet ... "

"I'm flipping through the pages, thinking everything looks fine, and then suddenly I looked at it and said, 'What the heck,' " he said. "I guess they wanted me to have a lesson in Latin."

Others found errors.

Thorogood had four mortgages listed as active, when two had been closed for years. He also found a long list of banks and other businesses that had been probing his files repeatedly without his knowledge. When he finally tracked down his wife's credit reports, he found an old work address from the 1980s listed as a prior home address.

"Ridiculous," he said.

Credit scores were another touchy spot.

When lenders check people's credit, most order a standard "FICO" score, named after the Fair Isaac Corp. of Minneapolis, which helped create the scores. They range from 300 to 850.

Scores over 720 are considered excellent. Lower scores trigger higher interest rates, or no loan.

All three of the main credit bureaus sell credit scores to consumers. But only one - Equifax - sells a real FICO. TransUnion and Experian sell a different "consumer" score that no lender ever sees. Personal finance experts call them "Fake-O's." Generally, they fall in the vicinity of a FICO.

But not always.

Robert Wyckoff, a retired editor from Nevada City, ordered his credit score from Experian for $5.95 on Wednesday. When it came in at 873, he was ecstatic.

The next day, after reading in The Bee that it wasn't a FICO, he ordered a FICO from Equifax and was crushed: It was 758 - 115 points below the Experian score.

"When I saw the difference, I couldn't believe it," he said.

Consumer experts warn that the power of the FICO should not be underestimated. Phil Steiger learned the hard way.

Steiger lives in a new development near Olivehurst and was buying a home last summer. When he met his lender, his FICO scores were near 700, and he was quoted interest rates of 4.25 and 4.5 percent on the pair of mortgage loans he sought.

Then he put a $6,000 purchase on a credit card, and boom, four weeks later, his scores dropped to around 630. And boom, his interest rates as he closed the home deal had risen to 5.6 and 9.5 percent on the two loans.

Steiger was furious: "I never pay my bills late. I've always had good credit. And it didn't count for anything."

Across the country, consumer advocates are watching the credit picture closely. Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, is urging people to take part in a survey gauging their credit experiences.

And the Consumer Federation of America suggests people report concerns to the Federal Trade Commission, which is taking public comment on how much scores should cost. The bureaus now charge $5 to $7.

Despite the glitches and concerns, the groups are viewing the new free reports as a chance for people to learn more about the murky world of credit reporting.

"We're hoping a byproduct of this new law will be consumers taking greater control of their credit," said Norma Garcia, Consumers Union senior attorney.

Free credit reports
The three major credit bureaus have set up a joint one-stop system to order free annual credit reports. Ordering your reports will not affect your credit scores.
* Internet: www.annualcreditreport.com (http://www.annualcreditreport.com)

* Toll-free: (877) 322-8228

* By mail: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

To contact the bureaus:

* Equifax - www.equifax.com (http://www.equifax.com) or (800) 685-1111

* Experian - www.experian.com (http://www.experian.com) or (888) 397-3742

* TransUnion - www.transunion.com (http://www.transunion.com) or (800) 888-4213

* To order FICO scores online: www.myfico.com (http://www.myfico.com)

For information on the Consumers Union survey on credit reports: * www.consumersunion.org/issues/creditmatters.html (http://www.consumersunion.org/issues/creditmatters.html)

For information on the Federal Trade Commission's study of credit score fees: * www.ftc.gov/opa/2004/11/factafrn.htm (http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2004/11/factafrn.htm)

Link (http://www.sacbee.com/content/business/story/11654440p-12543351c.html)