Federal law provides consumers with the right to receive their free credit report (annual file disclosure) from all three nationwide consumer reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and Trans Union, once in a twelve month time period.  15 USC 1681j.  The law also required Experian, Equifax and Trans Union to create a central source for consumers to make a request for all three credit reporting agencies’ by phone, mail and internet.  The internet website is  Don’t be fooled by websites with similar names or that mention you can get a free credit report in their TV ads!

Consumers may also request a free report after receiving a credit, employment or insurance denial from the credit reporting agency that the user (potential creditor, employer or insurer) reviewed when making its decision.  The request for a free report due to being denied credit, insurance or employment based on your credit report should be directed to the appropriate credit reporting agency (Equifax, Experian or Trans Union).  By law, the potential creditor, employer or insurer is supposed to provide you with the contact information (name, telephone and address) of the credit reporting agency that provided it with your credit report.  This information should be contained in a letter from the potential creditor, employer or insurer.  Be careful – you must request your credit report within 60 days of receiving this letter!

“Each consumer reporting agency that maintains a file on a consumer shall make all disclosures pursuant to section 1681g of this title without charge to the consumer if, not later than 60 days after receipt by such consumer of a notification pursuant to section 1681m of this title, or of a notification from a debt collection agency affiliated with that consumer reporting agency stating that the consumer’s credit rating may be or has been adversely affected, the consumer makes a request under section 1681g of this title.” 15 USC 1681j(b).

Under federal law, consumers also have a right to a free credit report if the consumer is: 1. unemployed at the time of the request and intends to apply for a job within 60 days; OR, 2. receives public welfare assistance; OR, 3. has a reason to believe the credit reporting agency (Experian, Equifax, or Trans Union) has incorrect information as a result of fraud; OR, 4. when the consumer places a fraud alert on his/her credit file.

“Upon the request of the consumer, a consumer reporting agency shall make all disclosures pursuant to section 1681g of this title once during any 12-month period without charge to that consumer if the consumer certifies in writing that the consumer:  (1) is unemployed and intends to apply for employment in the 60-day period beginning on the date on which the certification is made; (2) is a recipient of public welfare assistance; or (3) has reason to believe that the file on the consumer at the agency contains inaccurate information due to fraud.  (d) Free disclosures in connection with fraud alerts.  Upon the request of a consumer, a consumer reporting agency described in section 1681a(p) of this title shall make all disclosures pursuant to section 1681g of this title without charge to the consumer, as provided in subsections (a)(2) and (b)(2) of section 1681c-1 of this title, as applicable.”  15 USC 1681j(c) and (d).

Experian, Equifax and Trans Union may not charge you for your credit report (they can charge you for your credit score) if you meet any of the requirements above.  15 USC 1681j(e).  If Experian, Equifax or Trans Union has a legal basis for charging you for your credit report (i.e., you do not meet one of the free disclosure criteria above), they must tell you (disclose) that charge to you BEFORE providing you with the report.  15 USC 1681j(f).

If you have requested your free credit report from Experian, Equifax or Trans Union, and they charged you for it, failed to send it to you, or did not give you the report within 15 days of your request for a free annual disclosure, then you may entitled to recover damages. Contact consumer credit attorney Micah Adkins for a free legal consultation.