If you live in the Western United States, as of today you can get a free credit report from each of TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. You can do this once per year. Check out AnnualCreditReport.com to see when you get your chance if you don’t live out west.
Update 12/9: I corrected the above URLs. Thanks for pointing out my mistake, Richard!
I was able to view my reports from TransUnion and Experian instantly online. Unfortunately, I will have to fill out a form and mail it in to Equifax to get my report from them.
You might be wondering, why are the credit bureaus doing this for free? I have no idea if the FTC forced them to make this offer, but they each take the opportunity to market a lot of their other services while you’re signing up for the free credit reports. I’m very pleased that the credit bureaus have made credit reports available for free annually, but they are definitely getting a lot of marketing value from the effort.
If you’re like me and have been a victim of identity theft, you’ll definitely want to take advantage of this offer as soon as possible. While you get a credit report for free if you have been a victim of fraud in the previous 12 months, it’s good to check up your credit report after that time period, especially if you don’t know if the thief was ever caught. The good news for me is that the bad credit card info has been removed from my TransUnion and Experian reports. The bad news is that those reports still contain bad phone numbers, addresses, and names. Some day I’ll get around to adding this info to my Privacy and Information Security page.
Update 12/2/2004 – It turns out this was required under the terms of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act that was passed in 2003.