As I mentioned in the post about credit monitoring, you can get a free credit report every year at AnnualCreditReport.com. The best approach is to access one of the three free reports every four months. That will give you a year-round view of your credit for free. However, there are other occasions where you can get a credit report for free, even if you’ve already received your free annual report through the government site.
You Live in a State that Requires Free Copies of Credit Reports
If you live in Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey or Vermont, you’re entitled to another free report. You can’t access it through the federal website, but you can request it by mail by writing to each of the three bureaus or by visiting the websites for Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. If you live in Georgia, you’re entitled to two reports a year.
You’re Denied Credit, Insurance, or Employment
When you apply for new credit, the creditor will review your credit report. If you’re turned down because of information on your credit report, you’re entitled to a free copy of the report that contained it. The creditor must explain the reason credit was denied. You then have sixty days to request your report in writing if you include the reason credit was denied in your request.
Some insurers use your credit report when determining whether to extend insurance to you. The theory is that people with poor credit are more likely to make insurance claims. If you’re turned down for insurance due to your credit history, you can request a copy of the report they reviewed within sixty days of being notified.
Employers can also use credit reports when making hiring decisions. If you’re denied employment due to your credit report, you can also request a free copy of it.
You Receive Public Assistance
If you receive welfare benefits or other public assistance, you can request free copies of your reports.
You’re Unemployed and Looking for Work
If you’re unemployed and plan to begin looking for work within the next sixty days, you can request free copies of your reports.
You’re a Victim of Fraud
If you know you’re a victim of identity fraud, or suspect fraudulent activity, you can request a free copy of your report when you place a fraud alert on your file.
Obviously, none of these are ideal ways to get a free copy of your credit report, but it’s good to know that you’re entitled to it if one of them occurs. You can also try to game the system by using the free credit report offers at various bureaus and private firms, but most of these deals require you to provide a credit card number and will start charging you a monthly fee if you forget to cancel the service within the first thirty days. I’d much rather play it safe and use the government site.