Not sure what brought this up now, but for some reason I thought to go get the "free" annual credit reports that we are entitled to here in the US at least once every year. I started with AnnualCreditReport.com (the central clearing house setup by the 3 major credit reporting agencies) which asked me for the standard credit information (name, ssan, address, dob, etc.).
Once I entered that information they prompted me to select which of the 3 agencies I would like to review the report at (yes, you can select multiple). I selected all 3, but now, after thinking about it, perhaps I should have selected one only and rotated around the 3 agences throughout the year -- that way I can get a new checkup every 4 months rather than only one per year -- Oh well).
The web site then forwards you to each of the agencies where you will go through a different process at each of them to further verify your identity and get access to your credit report. My experience at each of them:
- The first agency I was sent to was TransUnion where I had to create an account in order to get my report. I was then prompted for 2 account numbers (which I had to go find) and then the tried to upsell me a copy of my credit score for $7.95 before they would let me see my credit report. When I was done, the process had taken so $#@%ing long that my session at AnnualCreditReport.com had expired and I had to start all over for the remaining two agencies.
- On to Equifax, where they wanted to know which provider I opened an account with in 2005 and what was the payment (much easier to deal with), then they too wanted to upsell me my credit score for $7.95. No need to create an account. Got my report and printed it.
- And, finally, Experian ((the last of the 3). This time, I went back to AnnualCreditReport.com fairly quickly, so no need to re-enter all of my information. Experian started with verification of my ssan (last 4 digits), then they asked for verification of 2 accounts (who gave me a mortgage at a particular time and who gave me an auto loan at a different particular time) as well as the name of the county in which I live. Poof. I got to see my credit report. No need to create an account, no attempt to upsell me with the credit score (at least not as an intrusive click-through step -- it may have been there somewhere else on the page that I just ignored).
Moral of the story.... be tenacious and make them give you a copy of your report -- it IS free (as long as you don't fall for the upsell). Unless you think you have been a victim of identity theft, I would stagger the reports from each agency as many of them carry the same information as the others and this kind of gives you better coverage over the year (there's a lot someone can do in the 12 months between your annual reviews if you do all 3 at the same time).