Consumer Advocate

Sign up for newsletters and other news
Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > January 2016 > Annual credit reports are vital way to catch ID theft and errors

Consumer Advocate RSS feeds

Annual credit reports are vital way to catch ID theft and errors

If you are concerned about identity theft or want to understand the information that creditors access when you apply for a mortgage, apartment, credit card, car loan, or any other type of credit, check your credit report. Reviewing your credit report will help you understand what information creditors can see and is the most effective way to spot warning signs of identity theft.

Federal law allows consumers to obtain one free copy of their credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – every year. You can access free annual copies of your credit reports at or by calling 1-877-322-8228.

You may order all three credit reports at once or choose to stagger them to view one report every few months in order to check the accuracy of your credit reports throughout the calendar year.  For example, maybe you choose to pull TransUnion in January, Equifax in May, and Experian in September – this way you see your credit report at three different times throughout the year.

If a consumer is denied credit, that individual is entitled to the credit report used to make that determination. The information contained in the report from one credit reporting agency may vary somewhat from the information contained in another agency’s report, as each credit report summarizes the information that the particular credit reporting agency has on file for the consumer.

Keep in mind that your credit score is separate from your credit report, and there is generally a fee to request your credit score. However, some credit card companies have begun including a FICO credit score for free on monthly billing statements.
If you discover an error on your credit report, you should dispute it with the credit reporting agency online or by calling the phone number listed on the report. The agency has 30 days to investigate a consumer’s inquiry. Any item in dispute must be removed if the creditor that reported the information (such as your credit card provider or bank) does not respond in that timeframe. If, however, the creditor responds that the information is accurate, you are entitled to add your explanation to the report.

If, after reviewing your credit report, you suspect you are a victim of identity theft, report it to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office by calling 800-282-0515 or visiting The Attorney General’s Identity Theft Unit helps victims recover from the effects of identity theft.