Annual credit report (.com). I'm sure you've heard about this plenty.
Have you been there?
It can be a bit of a maze. One planned to steer you off course and on to
a commercial site designed to make you believe there is no free credit
report (or so my son thought!).
Of course if you are not paying attention or in the know you might mistake freecreditreport.com as your free annual credit report allowed by law when it is a marketing ploy by experian, one of the three major credit bureaus that make money by way of your report and the score associated with it.
Since the writing of this page I have noticed that freecreditreport
now has a big banner at the top of the site for annualcreditreport.com.
I guess my son wasn't the only one confused!!!
A few years ago it was quite the challenge to stay on the course of the free report, but due to many complaints of the bureau's attempts to inundate consumers with their own products the way to the free report is a relatively clear shot now.
So I decided to assist my son with his challenge and take notes to how many detours one would encounter on the route to the free annual credit report and how to get around them.
Perhaps at times explore some to see if they would be worth trying at a later time.
So here it goes....
Start off with putting your patience pants on and strapping them on tight.
First off you come to a well marked screen with the annual credit report.com logo at top.
A window with a large red start here, where you will pick your state and then press the request report button.
There is much other info that may be of help here. So you may want to look around a bit first.
On the far right is an area that tells you this central site allows you to request a free credit file disclosure = credit report.
That will link you to a page chock full of information.
big piece of information being the 6 states that already allow by law
the free annual credit report. So you may access one here at the instant
site and then at another time if you live in one of those six states
access another report by the phone or mail option for the free one
allowed by your state.
At the top of the page is the annual credit report button, it just puts you back to that same page.?????
Frequently asked questions is basically the same info as the credit file disclosure link but framed differently.
A contact us button of the usual sort, an about us page (complete
with each of the 3 companies plug for their company)and then a fraud
alert button which is again the page of frequently asked questions aimed
specifically at the fraud alert section and info that the Fact Act of
2003 put into place.
Read more about that on the credit law page of this website.
Once you've played around with all that info and are done you can select your state and move on.
You will be entering your full name, social security number and date of birth here.
You will be asked to check a box if you want only the last 4 digits to appear on your report.(A good idea )
Then you will be listing your current address and IF you have only lived there for less than 2 years your previous address.
Then you will be typing in the characters of one of those infamous boxes of encrypted numbers and letters ( YOU know the ones you can hardly read and have to try 4 times before you get it right!)
Actually this one is AMAZINGLY clear.
The maddening part as you will soon find out, is that you will do this
screen 2 more times for each of the remaining credit bureaus.
In this instance though there was an 0 in the box to identify. Is it a zero or is it a letter?? You're always wrong!! But the next one had no such problems. So off to another screen. Now you are asked which bureau to request your report from. We selected all three but were sent to Equifax first.
This next screen gives instructions on how to return to annual credit report to request the rest of your reports after you get the one you asked for.
You push continue and then are sent to Equifax.
The Equifax experience
Here you are welcomed to equifax and thanked for selecting the credit file.
It shows the cost is free, your info is on the page for you to verify.
Next is a screen to make sure it really is you and ask financial questions that only you would know.
In my son's case it was about a mortgage. He's only 22 he doesn't have one, so none of the above applied when it was asked what bank it was with.
Then it will ask the payment range which again was none of the above.
The next page the sales pitch begins, but not too bad. You can purchase your Risk score for $7.95. It does not say it's a FICO score. You can also pay $7.95 a month for score watch which lets you know when there are changes to your credit report that would result in a score change.
It gives you 2 credit reports with this offer.
Hit the NO THANKS button and then you are offered to view your credit report for 30 days free if you open an account with them (also free) what they will be getting is your email and the ability to fill your inbox with lots of advertisements for their products.
If you don't say yes to this you will need to print your report in order to view and do any repair work.
So if you don't have a printer the 30 day option may not be a bad idea. You can go to the library and access it there and then print it.
If you are reading this before you attempt to access your annual credit report you may even want to open a new free email that you can use to send their "junk mail" so it won't be a bother to you.
Besides the free account they then try with 2 free scores and score watch at again $7.95 a month.
Hit no thanks again and you are taken to a page with a transaction code print this page if you can. And of course your report.
When finished hit the button either at the top of the page or the one they placed on the page that returns you to annual credit report.com.
On to Transunion
Transunion was next. The same starter info window with the security encryption code at the bottom.
Once you get into Transunion THEY require you to set up an account. So you might as well write this info down as if you have problems( as we soon did) you will need it.
The next window they ask you for your email so "they can alert you next year when you can request your next free report". Yeah right, I'm sure they will but not before they send constant email about their products.
The next window is where the problems began. It was the same kind of security window that has to identify it really is you. They asked him to choose either a phone number verification or mailing address one.
My son picked the phone one. Problem being he and others especially in his age group constantly change their phone numbers. The phone numbers listed were old ones.
One was a land line for our household previously and another choice was a cell phone he had himself under his own name previously.
So he picked the cell phone number as it was HIS former number. That should have been the end of that, but no they want to use it to call you !!!
NO options that ask "is this a current number?"
He was at a road block. The contact page like many shoddy businesses was not to customer service like it should be.
It is to one of those self help pages that don't help.
After many contact us button pushing we got to an email page and are waiting for an answer but as I said previously you need to record the user name and password in order to get any help.
AND... you need to give them your email....so they get it anyway.
*An additional note here on Transunion they will require you to have that same password and user name next year when you want to receive your next free annual credit report.
Next and last.... Experian
We did get back to annual credit report and on to Experian.
Same drill, the info page with the encryption code. Then the return instruction page.
Once in at Experian they will again ask for the last 4 social digits.
Then it's right to the sales pitch. Terms of buying triple advantage free trial in small print (but it does say important info).
Your Vantagescore for $7.95 Who wants that, do you know any lenders using it yet???
The no Thanks button is at the bottom like usual.
Next up is a summary page that says your report is free or a total if you did decide to purchase something.
There is a terms and condition box to check and the page it takes you to if you decide to read it does have good info on it. I suggest to even print it.
Next is a 4 question verification page. If you get past that you can print your report.
If you answer any of these questions wrong or in a questionable manner you may get a screen that says in 24 hours you will be sent a code to use to return to the site at a later time to get your online report.
You can say no to this and just call and have them send the report if you would like.
All in all Experian and Equifax were the easier to deal with.
One of the things found is that some of the verification questions are double edged.
I was asked what bank I started a mortgage with in 2005. It then went on to additionally say which one was it that I made my current payments within the same sentence????? Is this a trick essay???
Well if I started one in 2005 it was a remortgage which I had done a several of in many years AND there was some bank changing routine going on You know bundle it up and send it to another bank.
So I would have to pause and run off to my files, figure out if any of the listed banks in the question were indeed the one used in a possible 2005 remortgage, but it certainly wasn't the one I am currently paying.
I would conclude there was no way of answering that question correctly.
Another area that may get you shot down is if you have been enrolled in an id theft protection plan such as Lifelock.
These companies use the provision in the Fact Act that allows consumers to place fraud alerts on their reports. They also advertise that you will get a reduction in your junk mail which means they must also enact a fraud alert extension somehow.
If you or I personally try to do that with our own accounts we need a police report of the theft to initiate the extension but somehow they got around it as a company, though they may not have that option anymore as I have heard chatter about that also.
What is important in your quest to receive your free annual credit report is that the bureaus may for security purposes not allow you to access your report online.
In this case you will most likely have to phone or mail request your report.
All in all if you can put up with a bit of annoyance and show some perseverance it is a good deal one we all need to take advantage of.