Three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies, also referred to as credit bureaus, maintain credit reports about each consumer. These companies maintain such information as how many accounts a consumer has and whether the consumer has paid his or her bills on time. The three companies include the following: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Contact information for these companies is available under “Organizations” at the conclusion of this essay.
Under amendments to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, passed in November 2003, each of these credit bureaus must provide every consumer with a free copy of the consumer’s credit report. The credit report cannot be obtained directly from the credit bureaus, however. Instead, these reports must be obtained through one of the following: online at www.annualcreditreport.com; via phone at 1-877-322-8228; or by submitting a form to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, Georgia, 30348-5281.
In some instances under federal law, a consumer is entitled to additional free reports, such as when a company denies credit to a consumer. Moreover, some states provide for free access to credit reports. Otherwise, consumers may pay up to $9.95 to order a credit report from one of the reporting services.