Don’t be fooled. There’s only one official Web site where you can order your free annual credit report, but many copycats. Consumer Reports WebWatch recently examined Web sites that advertise “free” credit reports. Here’s the catch -- most will give you a report for free but only if you agree to purchase credit monitoring services for as much as $160 a year or a credit score for as much as $75. Of the 24 sites analyzed, nine were owned by or closely connected to TransUnion and eight were owned by or otherwise closely connected to Experian.
You can save money if you request an annual free copy of your credit report online from www.annualcreditreport.com -- and only this site -- or by calling (877) 322-8228. Here’s an additional tip: You’re allowed one report yearly from each of the three major participating bureaus, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. You could order all three at once. Or you may want to do your own monitoring by spacing them. Order one from TransUnion now. Four months later, order one form Experian. Then four months after that, order an Equifax report. Repeat the following year.
Type the Web site directly into your browser or click on our link. Some look-alike Web sites are fakes set up by identity thieves who want your personal information. The real www.annualcreditreport.com is secure and your information is encrypted when you submit it. You'll be asked for your Social Security number, but it's OK. The bureaus already have it and they need the number to prove you are really you.