On September 1, 2005, as a result of an Act passed by Congress, Delaware residents became eligible to receive a free credit report from all three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Transunion and Experian. The site created for requesting a free credit report from the three agencies is www.annualcreditreport.com. You may request your free credit report on line or by calling toll free 877-322-8228. You may also download the free credit report form (requires adobe reader) and mail to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

A credit report is used by a lender to help determine whether a person qualifies for a particular credit card, loan, or service. Credit reporting information is used by the agencies to provide a score that estimates the risk a company incurs by lending money or providing a customer with a service. Generally, the higher the score, the less risk the person represents. Checking your credit report and evaluating the various components of the report is an important tool you as a consumer can use to understand your financial history and improve your score. While the law allows for one free credit report from each of the three agencies every year, the package does not include your actual credit score. The free credit report is important for avoiding identity theft and as a way to check for errors on your report.

Another question some residents have asked is whether it is better to order all three credit reports at once or space them out during the year. On the one hand, if you have never seen your credit report it may be wise to get a look at all three and review for any errors. On the other hand, if you have seen your report or if your credit is very strong, you may want to order one report from one agency and then come back in three or four months and order from another.

One final reminder: asking for a report directly from a credit bureau never hurts your credit score. Each resident in Delaware gets three free credit reports each year at no penalty to your credit score.

Brochures on Identity Theft

A brochure from the Federal Trade Commission entitled Stop Think and Click (available in English and Spanish) highlights seven practices for safe computing. The brochure also focuses on a web site called onguardonline.gov, which provides practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you be on guard against internet fraud. Here are links to the top five web sites consumers can use to fight identity theft.