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Hawkins: AnnualCreditReport.com - Free but valuable

dfox • Updated Nov 12, 2015 at 12:09 AM

The three major credit reporting agencies (CRA’s) – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – are required by federal law to provide, on request, a free credit report every 12 months to every consumer. 

U.S. consumers can go to www.annualcreditreport.com to obtain and review their free credit reports. This free website helps consumers make sure their credit information is correct, and helps guard against identity theft.

Q. What about those commercials for ‘free credit reports?’

Most Americans have probably seen or heard television and radio commercials with catchy music and lyrics encouraging consumers to get their “free credit report.” Beware! These commercials send customers to for-profit websites.

Many Americans have complained that they have been “ripped off,” or taken advantage of, by these catchy commercials. They ordered what they thought was a free credit report with no strings attached.

When they gave their name, address and credit card number in order to get their “free credit report,” they did not realize that they would also be charged from $14.95 to $19.99 per month for “membership” on a continuing basis. 

Consumer Tip: Visit www.annualcreditreport.com and start the free process. You are entitled to receive one free credit report every 12 months from each of the nationwide CRA’s. You can order all three credit reports at the same time, or order one now and others later. 

The advantage of ordering all three at the same time is that you can compare them. On the other hand, if you order one now and others later (for example, one credit report every four months), then you can keep track of any changes or new information that may appear on your credit report. The key is to start the process. If you discover an error on any report, there are directions on how to request a free correction.

James B. (Jim) Hawkins is a general practice and public interest law attorney.. This column represents legal information, and is not intended to take the place of legal advice. All cases are different and need individual attention. Consult with a private attorney of your choice to review the facts and law specific to your case. Please call (615) 452-9200 to suggest topics for future columns. 

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