Around Our Town...Financial Focus
02/01/2005 - People in Wyoming are now able to get a free credit report. A recent amendment to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.
My suggestion is to use this new law to keep tabs on your credit report periodically to see if there's anything unusual or unexpected in it. If there is, that may be a sign that someone has stolen your identity. The quicker you get your arms around any identity theft issues, the better off you'll be.
In order to get your free credit reports, the three nationwide consumer reporting companies have set up one central website, toll-free telephone number, and mailing address through which you can order your free annual report. To order, click on www.annualcreditreport.com, call 877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You can print the brochure with that form in it from this website: www.ftc.gov/credit. Do not contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually. They are only providing free annual credit reports through www.annualcreditreport.com, 877-322-8228, and Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies at the same time, or you can order from only one or two. The law allows you to order one free copy from each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies every 12 months. I'd spread out the requests and get one from each bureau every four months. At any rate, that's what I'm personally doing. That way, you're keeping your thumb on your credit pulse throughout the year rather than just one time every twelve months.
If you're going to take advantage of this (and, I strongly recommend that you do), be aware that in order to receive your report, you will need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. If you have moved in the last two years, you may have to provide your previous address. Also, to maintain the security of your file, each nationwide consumer reporting company may ask you for some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment. Each company may ask you for different information because the information each has in your file may come from different sources. The only authorized source for your free annual credit report from the three nationwide consumer reporting companies is: www.annualcreditreport.com.
Here's something else to keep in mind as this service becomes more widely known and the crooks start to come up with their twists on it: The website - www.annualcreditreport.com - and the nationwide consumer reporting companies WILL NOT send you an email asking for your personal information. If you get an email or see a pop-up ad claiming it's from www.annualcreditreport.com or any of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies, do not reply or click on any link in the message — it's probably a scam. If you do happen to get one of the inevitable phony emails, forward it to FTC's database of deceptive spam at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How soon to view your credit reports? Well, if you request your report online at www.annualcreditreport.com, you should be able to access it immediately. If you order your report by calling toll-free 877-322-8228, your report will be processed and mailed to you within 15 days. If you order your report by mail using the Annual Credit Report Request Form, your request will be processed and mailed to you within 15 days of receipt.
Whether you order your report online, by phone, or by mail, it may take longer to receive your report if the nationwide consumer reporting company needs more information to verify your identity.
Here's the schedule of availability: Free reports will be phased in during a nine-month period, rolling from the West Coast to the East beginning December 1, 2004. Beginning September 1, 2005, free reports will be accessible to all Americans, regardless of where they live.
Consumers in the Western states — Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming — can order their free reports beginning December 1, 2004.
Consumers in the Midwestern states — Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin — can order their free reports beginning March 1, 2005.
Consumers in the Southern states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas — can order their free reports beginning June 1, 2005.
Consumers in the Eastern states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia — the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and all U.S. territories can order their free reports beginning September 1, 2005.
Again, do yourself a favor and take advantage of this free service.