Tristan Dunston asked:
Consumers in the US, UK and Australia can all get their hands on a free copy of their credit report to do a credit check on themselves. The systems in each country are different, and this article explains how consumers can go about getting a free credit report if they live in one of these countries.
In the United States:
Consumers have had the legal right to a free copy of their credit report, annually, for a number of years now. The Fair Credit Reporting Act granted consumers a free credit report from each of the three US credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and Transunion.
There is only one authorised website in the US from which American consumers can obtain their free report under their legal entitlement, and that is annualcreditreport.com. There is also a free toll number, 1-877-322-8228 where US citizen’s can order their annual credit report. A report can also be ordered by filling out the Annual Credit Report Request Form and posting it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, PO Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Online, the service is instant, but security questions will be asked to verify identity. By telephone and post, it takes about 15 days for a credit report to arrive, but it may take longer if the agency needs to verify an identity.
The Federal Trade Commission, which protects US consumers, has warned people to be on the look out for what it calls ‘imposter’ sites. At one point it was estimated there were more than one hundred such websites in existence, some of which included domains that used misspellings of the authorised free credit report website.
There are other online services offering free credit reports, using subscription free trial period schemes. With these credit report services consumers need to be aware that if they fail to cancel the subscription within the free trial period they are likely to have their plastic charged. The trial period schemes usually require consumers to cancel the subscription within the trial period, usually 30 days, or the company may start to charge a fee.
Also, in the United States, consumers can get a free credit report if they have been turned down for credit, insurance or employment and they apply within 60 days of receiving notice from the company involved. The unemployed who are looking for work, those on welfare and people whose reports are inaccurate, because of fraud, can all get a free credit check.
In the UK:
There is not a legal right for consumers to a free credit report from the credit reference agencies in the UK, unlike the US. But you can go directly to the websites of the three credit reference agencies, Callcredit, Equifax and Experian to get one without having to pay a fee. All offer a free trial subscription service that provides a free credit report as part of the free trial. To avoid incurring a charge, the consumer must remember to cancel the subscription with the credit reference agency within the free trial period, usually 30 days. Failure to do so may lead to the agency charging fees.
One website in the UK, annualcreditreport.co.uk, provides UK consumers with free yearly access to their credit report from one of the three credit reference agencies. This service doesn’t require people to provide their credit card details to get a free credit report.
While there is not a legal right for consumers to a free credit report in the UK, there is a right under Data Protection laws for consumers to get a credit report for £2. This is known as a statutory credit report. A statutory credit report can be obtained by writing to the credit reference agencies and sending a cheque or postal order for £2, with details such as name, full current and previous address, and date of birth to: Callcredit Ltd Consumer Services Team, PO Box 491, Leeds LS3 1WZ; Experian Ltd Consumer Help Service, PO Box 8000, Nottingham NG80 7WF and Equifax Credit Report Advice Centre PO Box 1140 Bradford BD1 5US. It usually takes around 7 days for a statutory credit report to arrive.
Australian consumers have a right to a free copy of their credit report under the Privacy Act. Veda Advantage and Dun and Bradstreet, Australia’s largest credit reporting agencies, will both provide a free credit report to consumers within 10 days of receiving a request. The Tasmanian Collection Service, which covers the citizens of Tasmania, provides consumers with a free credit report if they have been refused credit or an application is to do with the management of an individual’s credit commitments.
Australian consumers keen to keep an eye on their credit rating can get a free copy of their credit report by writing to: Veda Advantage Public Access, PO Box 964, North Sydney NSW 2059. Dun and Bradstreet at Public Access Centre, Dun and Bradstreet (Australia) PL, PO box 7405, St Kilda Road, VIC 3004. Tasmanian Collection Service can be contacted at GPO Box 814H, Hobart, TAS 7001.