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By now you’ve heard this advice hundreds, if not thousands, of times: You need to pull a free credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com at the very least once a year.
This is an excellent way to make sure your identity has not been stolen. Also, mistakes in your credit report could unfairly damage your credit score.
So, how do you go about it? And how long does it take? Is it difficult? Someone I know once told me that when she tried to pull her free credit report, she unintentionally clicked the wrong link and ended up at one of those “free” credit report sites where you have to pay.
I’ll admit that I was overdue for using AnnualCreditReport.com, the one and only official site for obtaining free credit reports. It had been more than a year. So I did it just now, and I’m going to walk you through the steps I took.
1. Select your state and click on “Request Report.” So far, this is easy.
2. Fill in the personal information form. The Web address for AnnualCreditReport.com begins with “https,” which tells me the site should be secure. There are other assurances of security. For instance, it says that your Social Security number “will be encrypted for your protection.” You can also check a box to choose that only the last four digits will be visible when you get your credit report.
3. Next you pick which credit report you want to see. You’re entitled to one free report from each of the three big credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax – every year. For no particular reason, I picked TransUnion.
4. I was sent to a TransUnion website, and I was asked some questions so that TransUnion could verify that I was, in fact, me. You might want to have credit cards and loan account numbers handy, just in case you’re asked to produce them.
The multiple-choice questions can be tricky. I was asked:
- What county I lived in in 1997. I had to think about that. One of the possible answers was a county where I had previously lived, but not in that year. My correct answer was “none of the above.”
- Which phone number I’d used previously. One of them did seem familiar, so I picked it. Luckily I was right.
- Which business I’d been associated with. That question was easy.
5. Then I was delivered to my credit report. I opted to print it out – all nine pages.
6. When you’re done, click on “return to AnnualCreditReport.com.” If you want, you can ask for your other two reports. But because it’s good to review one of these reports every four months, I didn’t. You get only one free report from each of the big three credit bureaus a year, so generally it makes sense to spread out these requests.
This entire process took about 14 minutes.
Then it was time to review my credit report. (If I had chosen to read it online, I would have had the option to immediately report a mistake in the report directly to TransUnion).
Hooray! No surprises. All of the accounts in the report were ones that belonged to me, and the payments and the status of each account were reported accurately.
If I had found an account I was not familiar with, I would have immediately suspected identity theft and acted upon it. See: “7 Ways to Prevent Identity Theft and 7 Steps to Recover.”
So, are you ready to give it a try? Do it. It’ll give you one more reason to feel you’ve been productive today.