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Free Credit Reports: What Consumers Should Know

Free Credit Reports: What Consumers Should Know

A credit report is a snapshot of your finances. Many companies will make decisions based on this information. This report helps to determine your credit score.

Knowing how to read and use your credit report can help you manage your credit. If the information is correct, there will be fewer surprises when applying for credit.


Credit reports are a collection of your credit history. They list all credit accounts and loans you have ever had as well as your payment history. Credit reports also provide collections, liens, and bankruptcy details. 


Creditors review all this data when they look at your credit application. This helps them determine risk. From this, they decide if they will lend you money. It is also used to calculate interest rate on a loan. 


Credit reports can also show if you've been an identity theft victim. It’s important to report wrong or questionable information to the credit bureaus immediately.

You should review your credit reports regularly. Make sure they reflect accurate and up-to-date information. To get complete credit information, review all three reports.


The three credit reporting bureaus are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Consumers can access each of their reports weekly at no cost by visiting the Annual Credit Report website. You will need to provide your Social Security number to receive the report.


It is important to note that the information in each report may vary. Not all companies report to all three credit bureaus. Some companies report to just one.

Credit Score vs. Credit Report

Credit scores and credit reports are two different things. A credit report contains information received from your creditors. A credit score is a prediction of your credit behavior. It reflects how likely you are to pay your bills on time.  

Credit scores are determined by your credit report. It is based on the number of accounts, total debt, and payment history. Lenders use credit scores to evaluate a person’s creditworthiness. The higher the score, the more likely you are to obtain a loan or get a lower interest rate. 

Credit reports and scores are both financial tools used to determine your creditworthiness. They may also affect your ability to obtain utility services including cable, internet, and cellular services. Even potential employers may look at your credit to make hiring decisions.

Order Your FREE Credit Reports

One central website was created to fill orders for the free credit reports you are entitled to by Federal law. You can order your free credit report:

Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281 
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281 

The Annual Credit Report website is the only official site for free credit reports authorized by Federal law.

For general questions, or to file a complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Team at:

Consumer Protection Team  
P.O. Box 30213 
Lansing, MI 48909 
Fax: 517-241-3771 
Toll-free: 877-765-8388
Online complaint form