Obama financial reform

Financial Reform Bill Will Give Free Credit Scores to Some

Editor’s note: This article was originally written in August of 2010.

You’re already entitled to one free copy of your credit report each year, via annualcreditreport.com. But thanks to the Financial Reform bill Congress just passed, you may be able to get a free credit score in the future too. Who is entitled to the free credit score? You’ll qualify anytime a company takes “adverse” action against you based, at least in part, on information it got from your credit file.

Translation: anytime you get turned down for employment, denied insurance, or rejected for any credit application due to credit-related reasons, you’re eligible for a free credit score. You can also get a free score if you have to pay more money for insurance, credit or loans because of your credit.

Currently, If you get rejected for something based on your credit, you’re only entitled to get a free copy of your credit report – provided you ask for it within 60 days of receiving that denial or “adverse” action notification. Whenever you’re denied something based on your credit standing, the company rejecting you will send you a letter telling you which credit reporting agency (or agencies) they used to evaluate your credit history. You can then contact that credit bureau and ask for a credit report – even if you’ve already received a free report for the year.

What’s more, if you fit into any of these other categories, you can also get a free credit report:

o. You are receiving public assistance
o. You have been a victim of identity theft
o. You are unemployed and plan to go job-seeking in the next 60 days
o. You reside in a state that offers a free or reduced-priced credit report (this applies to residents of CA, CO, CT, GA, ME, MD, MA, MN, NJ, VT, and the USVI)

I estimate that about 65 million Americans currently fit into the first three categories, making them eligible for free credit reports. After all, the number of Americans receiving food stamps (public assistance) recently hit a record 40 million. Some 10 million people a year are victimized by identity theft. And there are approximately 15 million unemployed adults in the United States.

To get your free credit reports based on any of the circumstances mentioned above, or when you are disputing mistakes in your credit files, use the following contact information for each credit reporting agency. For fastest results, reach the bureaus online:

• http://www.Equifax.com/fcra
By phone, call: 877-576-5766 for a free report; or 888-800-8859 for a dispute
By mail, send your dispute to:
Equifax Information Services, LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374

• http://www.Experian.com/reportaccess
By phone, call: 888-397-3742 for a free report; or 866-200-6020 for a dispute
By mail, send your dispute to:
P.O. Box 9556
Allen, TX 75013

By phone, call: 800-888-4213 for a free report; or 800-916-8800 for a dispute
By mail, send your dispute to:
TransUnion Consumer Solutions
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000

Tip: Because web links frequently change, if you go to any of the websites and can’t find what you’re searching for, type phrases such as “Free Credit Report,” “Denied Credit,” or “Credit Dispute” into their search boxes, and you should ultimately be able to track down what you need.

As for getting your free credit score, you’ll also have to write the bureaus for those if you suffer some “adverse” action. But you can’t do it just yet. This new law regarding free credit scores doesn’t kick in until one year after President Obama has signed the Financial Reform bill.

But as I explained in my new book, Perfect Credit, even though the new Financial Reform bill didn’t make credit scores free to all consumers, I predict that one day this will happen — if not due to political and regulatory changes, then certainly due to competitive business practices.

Already, some companies like CreditKarma.com offer free credit scores — without you having to give a credit card number, or sign up for some other credit-related service. So it’s only a matter of time before free credit scores become widely available to the public.

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