Texans can now get a free copy of their credit report every 12 months from each of the three national credit bureaus - Experian, TransUnion and Equifax - by going to www.annualcreditreport.com or calling 1-877-322-8228. Free credit reports were mandated by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 to help reduce the fast-growing crime of identity theft. If someone opens a credit card account in your name, you can put a stop to it with a well-timed check of your credit report.
It's also smart to checkBack it before applying for a mortgage or car loan, since information in your credit report is used to set your credit score, which helps determine your interest rate.
When you get your credit report, look for incorrect names and addresses; accounts that don't belong to you; accounts incorrectly listed as open or delinquent; and bankruptcies or other judgments that don't belong to you.
When the law was passed, credit bureaus worried that they'd be overwhelmed with requests, so the government let them roll out the program across the country from west to east.
THINGS TO KNOW
Type www.annualcreditreport.com carefully into the address field of your Web browser. Typos can take you to sites that try to sell you all sorts of products.
You can get your credit report online instantly or by mail, either from the Web site or by calling 1-877-322-8228.
You may not want to grab all three credit reports at the same time. You can order one now, then space out the two others through the 12 month period. Any more than that and you'll have to pay the state-mandated cost of $9.74.
The law doesn't cover credit scores; you'll have to pay to get yours.
By Pamela Yip, Dallas Morning News Personal Finance Writer