Interested in Getting
Your Free Credit Report?
Beginning March 1, 2005, a new
federal law will allow Wisconsin consumers to order a free credit
report. Your credit report includes information on where you
live, how you pay your bills, and whether you have been sued,
arrested, or filed bankruptcy. The three nationwide credit-reporting
agencies—Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union—sell
this information to creditors, insurers, employers, and other
businesses who use it to evaluate your applications for credit,
insurance, employment, and renting or purchasing a home. For
these reasons, it’s important to regularly review your
How do you get the free credit
report on or after March 1? The three agencies have established
a joint toll-free number and website address where you can order
your free report: 877-322-8228 and www.annualcreditreport.com.
Be sure to carefully type this web address because similar-sounding
websites will charge you for the credit report. You may also
write for your free report by filling out the form at www.ftc.gov/credit
and mailing it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O.
Box 105281, Atlanta, Georgia 30348-5281. Do not contact each
credit-reporting agency separately since the above addresses
are the only address at which they will accept your free credit-report
You will be asked to provide your
name, address, and social security number and you may also be
asked for information that only you would know to ensure you
are who you say you are. If you request the report online, you
will receive it immediately. If you call or write, you should
receive the report in several weeks.
What if you find errors? The National
Public Interest Research Group reports that nearly 80 percent
of credit reports contain mistakes and fully 25 percent contain
serious errors that could cause credit to be denied. Therefore,
if you find errors, you should report them to the credit-reporting
agency in writing.
Be careful of scams and read sales
pitches carefully. Do not respond if you receive an e-mail or
pop-up ad claiming that it’s from any of the three credit-reporting
agencies—it is a scam. You will also want to carefully
examine any fee-based service the three credit-reporting agencies
may offer to you when you apply for your free credit report
because each agency is viewing this as a marketing opportunity.
Also, be careful of other so called “credit-reporting”
companies that may offer you a “free” 30-day trial
period since you may become one of a number of consumers who
forget to cancel before the 30 days have expired and then are
charged a fee.
Exploring the Insurance Maze, Continued
I expected considerable feedback
on last month’s article about insurance, and I was not
disappointed. I greatly appreciate all the comments I received.
Two persons made comments that I want to discuss here. First,
Herb from Cincinnati, Ohio, mentioned that there are many high-quality
fraternal benefit societies doing business in Wisconsin, and
I agree. Our state has many high-quality local town mutual insurance
companies as well. Second, Bob from Eau Claire noted that some
commissions charged by independent insurance agents could exceed
those charged by agents working for specific insurance companies.
Here, too, I agree. Once again, make sure you fully understand
what coverage you are receiving from your policy, the term of
your coverage, and its cost including commissions. An educated
consumer is a wise consumer.