Credit Report is Free in Certain Places, But Watch Out for Scams

Millions of Americans have learned all about the importance of their credit standings in their everyday lives, because this can impact all aspects of their finances, not just their credit. And while many are also acutely aware that the information contained on their credit reports is what is used to generate their credit scores, some may not be fully cognizant of the fact that there are some people trying to get between them and those documents, which can lead to fraud.

Consumers who are managing their credit responsibly should be taking the time to order copies of their credit reports every once in a while. The federal government allows every borrower nationwide to order one copy for free from each of the three major reporting bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — every 12 months. This means that once a year, you could order all three at the same time. Or, you could stagger them so that you receive one every four months, which may help you to keep better tabs on your credit over the course of the year. In addition, some states even allow for consumers to order their reports more often than that, and checking to see if such a rule can apply to you may go a long way to helping you get your credit under control.

However, this system is set up around the website www.annualcreditreport.com, but many people may not know that address specifically. As such, it may be possible for scam artists to create bogus websites that look exactly like that online portal — which itself brings consumers to the sites for the credit bureaus — but are really designed to get a hold of their personal and financial information.

How to know you’re in the right place

There are fortunately a number of ways in which you can tell you’ve visited the correct site for ordering free copies of your annual credit reports, and the most obvious is in the address bar. If it says anything other than “https://www.annualcreditreport.com” to start the web address, you’re on a site that’s probably designed expressly for the purposes of identity theft. Often, these sites may have very similar names, perhaps with an extra letter or even transposed letters that may not be easy to spot, but taking a close look is usually a pretty good way to know for sure that you’re using the proper site.

Along those same lines, the “https” prefix on the site’s address is usually a pretty good giveaway that you’re on the right track. While many websites have addresses that simply begin with “http,” the extra S literally stands for “secure.” Usually, whether a site is secure or not can also be judged by a small lock icon somewhere in the browser window, usually the address bar itself or perhaps in either the lower left- or right-hand corner. The Annual Credit Report website is certainly set up to be secure, meaning that any information you enter into it will be encrypted; however, people setting up attack sites won’t go to the trouble of creating all those controls, so if the site you’re visiting doesn’t have an S at the end, or a lock icon, you are almost certainly putting yourself in danger.

Another great way to avoid this issue is to simply conduct a Web search for “annual credit report” or type the address in yourself, slowly and carefully. Any search engine would turn up the official site as the No. 1 result, and obviously if you type the URL in yourself, you’ll know for sure that you’ve done it correctly. However, following links from any sites you don’t know or trust could lead to significant trouble in this regard.

Once you have your reports

Of course, once you’ve had the time to order your credit reports as safely as possible, you should try to check them over closely and make sure all information contained on them is accurate. Sometimes, the data may vary from one reporting bureau to another, and verifying what is and is not correct can be vital to maintaining a healthy credit standing overall.

In addition, in the course of checking your credit reports you may also come upon some unfair markings that could be having a profound negative impact on your score. If any such entries are discovered, it might be wise to work with a credit repair company in an attempt to clear them up as quickly as possible. These companies may be able to sort out any potential issues more quickly than the average person might be able to accomplish on their own, and doing so will help to get you back on the path to having the credit standing that you deserve.

Posted in Credit Report
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