The three nationwide consumer reporting agencies–Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian–will provide one free credit report every 12 months if you request it. As a result of a 2019 settlement, all U.S. consumers may also request up to six free copies of their Equifax credit report during any twelve-month period through December 31, 2026. These free copies will be provided to you in addition to any free reports to which you are entitled under federal law.
If you run into difficulty getting your free Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian annual credit report(s) from AnnualCreditReport.com or its toll-free phone number, try contacting the respective institution(s) directly for help:
- Equifax, (866) 349-5191 (Option 3)
- TransUnion, (800) 680-7289 (Option 1)
- Experian, (888) 397-3742 (Option 2 followed by Option1)
Freeze your report
Each of these companies offers you the option to freeze your report with them if you request it. By law each must freeze and unfreeze your credit file for free if you request it. You also can get a free freeze for your children who are under 16. If you are someone’s guardian, conservator or have a valid power of attorney, you can get a free freeze for that person, too.
Free Credit Monitoring for Military
Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian provide free credit monitoring services to active duty service members and to National Guard members, by visiting the active military web pages of each company.
For more information, click here.
- Ask students if they or their families have requested their credit report(s) recently. If so, what was their experience?
- Ask the students to make a list of circumstances that will lead them to freeze their credit reports. When should they consider unfreezing reports?
- When might it be necessary to freeze or unfreeze credit reports for children who are under 16 years of age?
- Should federal government require nation’s credit reporting agencies to provide free credit reports to consumers? Explain your answer.
If you’re overwhelmed by debt, it’s crucial to find a solution.
FDIC Consumer News offers a few tips.
- Contact your lender immediately if you think you won’t be able to make a loan payment.
- Reputable credit counseling organizations can help you develop a personalized plan to solve a variety of money problems.
- Be very careful of “debt settlement” companies that claim they can reduce what you owe for a fee.
- Avoid scams.
- Remember that you have rights when it comes to debt collection.
For more information, click here.
- Ask students if they know anyone who has had financial difficulties and how they resolved their problem.
- Ask students to review the main provisions of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and how the law protects consumers from unfair debt collectors.
- Why is it critical to contact your mortgage lender immediately if you think you can’t make a loan payment on time?
- In what ways reputable credit counseling organizations can help you develop a personalized plan to solve financial problems?
- What are the warning signs of possible fraud by a debt settlement company or credit counselor?
What are common credit report errors that you should look for on your credit report? When reviewing your credit report, check that it contains items about you. Be sure to look for information that is inaccurate or incomplete.
Some common errors in credit reports are:
- Errors made to your identity information (wrong name, phone number, address)
- Accounts belonging to another person with the same name or similar name as yours (this mixing of two consumer’s information in a single file is called mixed file)
- Incorrect accounts resulting from Identity theft
Incorrect reporting of account status
- Closed accounts reported as open
- You are reported as the owner of the account, when you are actually just an authorized user
- Accounts that are incorrectly reported as late or delinquent
- Incorrect date of last payment, date opened, or date of first delinquency
- Same debt listed more than once (possibly with different names)
Data management errors
- Reinsertion of incorrect information after it was corrected
- Accounts that appear multiple times with different creditors listed (especially in the case of delinquent accounts or accounts in collection)
- Accounts with an incorrect current balance
- Accounts with an incorrect credit limit
For more information, click here.
- Why is important to check your credit reports every year?
- Credit bureaus are required to follow reasonable procedures to ensure that your credit report is accurate, then why mistakes may occur?
- Ask students if they have ever been contacted a credit bureau to dispute the accuracy of its information. What was the outcome?
- When you notify the credit bureau that you dispute the accuracy of its information, what must the credit bureau do to rectify mistakes?
- What are your legal remedies if a consumer reporting agency fails to comply with the provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act?
If you find an error in a report from a credit reporting agency, you may submit a dispute not only to the credit reporting agency, but also directly to the company that is the source of the information. If the company corrects your information as a result of your dispute, it must notify all of the credit reporting agencies to which it provided the inaccurate information, so they can update their reports with the correct information.
If you submit a dispute by mail, your dispute letter should include your complete name, address, telephone number, your confirmation number (if available), and the account number. Clearly identify each mistake, state the facts, explain why you are disputing the information, and request that it be removed or corrected.
You may want to enclose a copy of the portion of your credit report that contains the disputed items and circle or highlight the disputed items. You should include copies (not originals) of documents that support your position. Send your letter by certified mail and ask for a return receipt, so that you will have a record that you letter was received.
For more information, click here.
- Ask students to request their own credit report and check for any errors.
- Ask students to draft a letter of complaint if they find any errors in their credit report.
- Where else can consumers submit a credit reporting complaint?
- If you suspect that error in your credit report as a result of an identity theft, what steps can you take to protect yourself?
Have you seen a sign offering a car title loan—also known as a pink-slip loan, title pledge or title pawn? These loans are use your paid-off car as collateral, and you get a small, short-term loan with a high interest rate. You usually have to repay the loan in 15 or 30 days, and the annual percentage rate (APR) is often more than 100 percent. If you don’t pay back the loan, the company can repossess your car—and then you’re worse off than you were before. It’s a very expensive way to get money.
Before you decide to take out a car title loan, weigh some options.
- Can you get a small loan from your bank, credit union or a small loan company? Even a cash advance on a credit card might cost less than a car title loan.
- Shop for the offer with the lowest cost. Compare the APR and the finance charges, and borrow only what you can repay in time.
For additional information, click here.
- Ask students how they can avoid costly loans like car title loans?
- Why car title loans are considered risky and undesirable?
- What can consumers do if car title lenders fail to disclose all the qualifying terms associated with obtaining a loan at its advertised rate?
- What can government agencies do to protect consumers in the short-term lending and auto marketplaces?
“A new survey from BMO Harris Bank shows consumers are confused on how credit card balances affect credit scores. . .”
While using a credit card is one of the easiest ways to build credit, there are plenty of misconceptions about how best to do that. According to this survey
- 39 percent of Millennials—people between ages 18 to 34—believe carrying a balance increases their credit scores. In fact, carrying a balance does not improve credit scores and can actually hurt scores.
- 23 percent of those surveyed indicated that a person’s educational level affects his or her credit score. In fact, a credit score is based only on the information in your credit report, and educational level is not included in your credit report.
- 27 percent of those surveyed thought checking their credit scores would lower their credit score. In fact, the opposite is true: If you regularly check your credit scores, it’s likely you’ll make financial decisions that will improve your credit score.
For more information go to http://finance.yahoo.com/news/credit-card-mistake-thats-costing-103040745.html
You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to
- Discuss why a credit score is important.
- Stress the importance of “managing” credit card debt.
- What affect will your credit score have on the finance charges you pay for credit purchases?
- How can your credit score affect your ability to purchase a home or an automobile?
- Assume you have a low credit score and have been turned down for a home mortgage. What steps can you take to increase your credit score?
When your credit card issuer suspects fraudulent activity on your credit card, it triggers a red flag to deny the charge. Generally, it is a great protection. But if you are making the purchase and not a thief, it can be frustrating. Some purchase patterns that could cause your purchase to be denied include:
- A purchase for a small dollar amount, followed by a large purchase. Credit card thieves sometimes make a small dollar “test purchase” followed by big ticket items, so this raises a red flag.
- Multiple purchases back-to-back in a short span of time.
- Making purchases in a new city, in a different part of town, or in stores where you do not normally shop.
Though inconvenient, these protections are to keep you from being a victim of fraud. Take these steps to prevent or deal with a credit card purchase being denied by mistake:
- Inform your credit card company if you will be using your card out of town (especially internationally).
- Update your billing address if you move, so that the company recognizes the new pattern of purchases as a new normal.
- Make sure the company has your cell phone number so that it can contact you faster to verify or authorize a purchase.
- Contact your credit company immediately if your purchase is denied.
For more information go to http://www.usa.gov/topics/consumer/consumer-action-handbook.pdf
- Ask students if their credit card was ever denied in error.
- If the transaction was denied, how did they resolve the problem.
- What are a few reasons that your credit card purchase might be denied?
- What can you do to avoid such an embarrassment at the check-out counter?
Brian Page, a teacher in Reading Ohio, wants his students to understand the drawbacks of check-cashing services, pawnshops, rent-to-own stores, payday loans, and other shadow banking services. As a result, he scheduled a field trip for his students to visit these sources of high-cost financial services in their community, which are used by many unbanked consumers.
At LoanMax, they observed people getting loans with their auto titles serving as collateral. One missed payment could lead to repossession of the vehicle. Next, at CheckSmart, students learned about payday lending and tax refund anticipation loans.
At CashAmerica people were making loan payments on money borrowed, which used jewelry, electronics, and sports memorabilia as collateral. Finally, the visit to the Rent-A-Center store demonstrated the exorbitant costs of furniture, appliances, and electronics when using a rent-to-own payment program.
For additional information on teaching about high-cost financial services, go to:
- Have students talk with someone who has used one of these high-cost financial services. Obtain information about their experiences.
- If appropriate, have students visit a high-cost financial service provider to obtain information about their services and fees.
- Have students create a video presentation with suggestions on how to avoid using costly sources of financial services.
- Why are an increasing number of people using high-cost financial services such as pawnshop loans, payday loans, and rent-to-own programs?
- What alternatives might used by consumers instead of these high-cost financial services?
- What actions might a person take to avoid these high-cost financial services?
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s Response Center reports that billing disputes and error resolution problems and processes are the most common types of complaints it received in 2012 and 2013 related to credit cards. And, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, many consumers are confused and frustrated by the process of challenging inaccuracies on their monthly statements.
Checking your statements periodically also can help you monitor your spending. You may want to sign up for alerts on your mobile phone or through your email that inform you when your credit card has hit a specific balance amount or you are close to your credit limit. Other alerts can remind you about an upcoming bill.
If you notice a billing error, such as an unauthorized charge on your statement, contact the card issuer as soon as possible.
For additional information and guidance, see consumer information from the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0219-fair-credit-billing.
1. What might be some reasons for consumers to be confused and frustrated by the process of challenging inaccuracies on their monthly statements?
2. What are advantages of checking your monthly credit card statements?
You may want to use the information in this blog post and the FTC website to
- Have students make a short presentation with a summary of actions that might be taken to report billing errors to the credit card issuer and other federal consumer protection agencies.
- Draft a sample letter to dispute a billing error.
- Review the Fair Credit Billing Act to learn about protecting their rights if a billing error occurs.
Correcting inaccuracies in your credit report may help you improve your credit history and credit score, which credit card issuers consider when deciding whether to offer you a card and how they will determine your interest rate and credit limit. You also can find out if an identity thief has opened credit cards or other accounts in your name.
By federal law, you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report every twelve months from each of the three major nationwide consumer reporting agencies (also called “credit bureaus”)—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Each company issues its own report, and because some lender do not provide information to all three of them, it’s useful to request your report from each one in order to get a comprehensive view of you credit history.
For additional information, go to
http://www.AnnualCreditReport.com; http://www.equifax.com; http://www.experian.com; http://www.transunion.com
1. Why is it important to check your credit reports every year?
2. Why should you request a credit report from each one of the three credit bureaus?
You may want to use the information in this blog and the above websites to discuss
* What should students do if they find inaccuracies in their credit reports?
* Have students draft a letter to the credit bureau to correct the errors in their credit report.