There seems to be a lot of confusion among consumers regarding credit scores, credit reports, where to get them, which ones are accurate, and how to access your credit report and score without getting scammed. With the economy in the doldrums and with mortgage lenders and credit card issuers having tightened lending guidelines, awareness of credit status is more important to consumers than ever. And the numbers of companies offering “free” credit reports along with credit protection services has grown dramatically within the past few years.
The catchy jingles playing nightly on TV tout the advantages of knowing your credit score, and many succumb to their clever marketing and offers of a “free” credit report. And while many are aware that the offers do come with strings attached, they may not realize that some of those strings will entangle unsuspecting users in a costly web from which it is sometimes difficult to escape.
Then there is the issue of credit scores, some of which are offered for free. Consumers will find scores offered by the three credit bureaus as well as multiple websites, but be aware that there is one main score used by lenders (FICO), and the number reported will vary from the other providers. Below I have listed the simple facts about credit reports and scores:
The three major credit reporting agencies are:
Experian, 475 Anton Blvd.,Costa Mesa, CA 92626 888.397-3742, www.experian.com
Equifax, P.O. Box 740123, Atlanta, GA 30374, www.credit.equifax.com
TransUnion. P.O. Box 7000, North Olmstead, OH 44070. www.truecredit.com
The best way for consumers to view their CREDIT REPORT is to visit, AnnualCreditReport.com. This is the site that offers the government mandated free credit reports which can be downloaded without cost once per year. And while the site doesn’t try to sell anything, the individual credit bureaus, once accessed, will; and, unless you are interested in credit protection services, ignore their offers with one exception. If you would like to know your FICO credit score, the one lenders use when considering your credit worthiness, you can purchase it for $7.95 from Equifax, the originator of the FICO scoring system. Don’t be fooled by other offers of credit scores, they’re not the ones used by lenders, and while they may provide you with an approximation of your real credit score, they’re worthless if you need to know precisely where you stand.
Finally, there are some free sites that do offer credit scores, but here again, they’re not the FICO score and will only give you an idea of your standing. Unless you’re planning on applying for credit, however, you may not need the FICO score. If you’re only satisfying your curiosity, get one of the free scores at: Credit.com; Quizzle.com; or CreditKarma.com.
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