Trying to get your free credit report? Bend over.

I am so enraged. It’s taken me one and a half hours and I’m late for work, and I still haven’t gotten all of my credit reports!

First, as of December 2004, it’s the law (at least in California). They’ve got to give me one for free. Free as in “doesn’t cost anything,” or “total cost is zero dollars,” or “we’re not charging you anything” or (okay; veering off course here. Sorry.)

So, what happens if you actually try to get your credit report by going to the credit reporting companies’ websites? Ha! You fell for it! You can’t actually get your free credit reports from those sites! However, they’ll happily take your money by jamming a vacuum up your ass then sideways until they hit your wallet.

How do you find out about that? You have to read their fucking “terms of use,” which are contained in a three-line text box in a smaller font, even though they run to hundreds of lines! So, I copy and paste the entire contents of their terms’ documents into a text editor, and right in the middle, there’s the actual truth: You can’t get there from here! We think you’re an idiot! And to prove it, we’ll do anything and everything we can to misdirect you, and if you do one thing wrong, such as not noticing that we’ve changed the contents of one of your fields, you’ll be out of luck and unable to get your free credit report.

Okay, so I end up finding about, but it took me another fifteen minutes to prove to myself that was legitimate. (I finally saw a google link to their site from, so I’m fairly sure they’re legit.)

So I go back to the first site, Equifax (which I’d earlier entered by naively going to, and entered their fucking confirmation process. What’s this? I click on the “what’s this” link, find out that this is the “electronic signature” part where they ask me questions I should know the answer to. Okay, fine. I click something that implies that I’ll get back to the confirmation page, but instead I’m back at the “front door” page, which has my name, address and other information, including my birthday, which they’ve arbitrarily reset to the first day of the month! Not seeing this, I hit proceed. Then they ask me the questions. I don’t know if I answered them correctly, because the next page I see is that I don’t have a credit report on file (as the groo who was born on almost-my-birthday-but-actually-not-my-birthday). And I’ve blown my free credit report for the year with Equifax.

Then I entered Trans-Union’s confirmation process, where I have to verify my identity by remembering bank account numbers from 20 years ago! But I’m crafty, and over the course of the past hour, I’ve ended up digging out my bank statements from 1985, and I successfully go through that gauntlet.

However, Trans-Union’s version of a free credit report lists half-account numbers, which I can’t see fully, and they’ve decided to go with colorful icons representing every payment on the accounts, with green (for good), gray X’s (for unknown), and red (for late payments). There are no reds, and half of the payments (on most accounts) are “unknown.” Well, they’re saying my account was never late, so why don’t they see fit to put greens? What the fuck kind of system is this, anyway? I’ve got 20 years of On-time-Never-lates on my accounts, but they won’t display the accounts with all-greens because they just don’t have that much detail in their records. So I’ve got gray boxes! What do I do? What does this mean? I don’t know! And that’s the end of Trans-Union.

And so, I enter the third circle of hell, Experian. Here I find an error in my account. I apparently worked for a tailor sometime somewhere somehow. That isn’t right! I Write Software! Good Software! I’m not a tailor! I don’t sew! What does this mean? I don’t know! I can’t get the details! So I click on the button that says, “Click here so we can sodomize you with a rusty spike, you idiot.” (Okay; it actually said to click the offending item.) I click on the mysterious tailor in my employment history, and I get the option of clicking to dispute my entire employment history (which I don’t), canceling (which I don’t want to), or adding more detail. I click on the “more detail” link and it takes me back to the page that had the error in the first place. After going through this cycle twice (to verify that I was actually going in circles), I finally give up and hit cancel, which brings me back to the same fucking place. Out of desperation, I hit the “dispute” button, which enters a dispute on my credit record. Now I’m in a dispute process with Experian, and I don’t have any feedback about it. All I have is the memory that once, back in 2005, I clicked a button.

At this point, I’m just a little bit agitated. I haven’t seen my Equifax credit report, I’m disputing my entire employment history with Experian, and I’ve got gray boxes in my Trans-Union report.

Next, I have to get on the phone with Experian. Then I have to call Equifax. If I get through those without having an aneurysm, I’ll call up Trans-Union and find out why I can’t get all-green-boxes.

I’d just like to say that sounds frustrating as hell. Damn them all.

Good grief! Has anyone else had similar trouble?

I’ve considered getting mine to check and make sure there’s nothing weird (I recently got my score because I bought a house, so I don’t think anything’s wrong, but hey, I might as well check if I can) but right now I’m not all that inspired.

I’m totally there with you! I managed to get two of my credit reports to print off and much to my surprise there are credit cards on there I’ve never had. Three to be exact. Only, they’re in good standing and all are closed. Oookay, so I try to get Transunion’s credit report and apparently I need the #s for the credit cards I never had. Soo, I call - great - get an automated system, they’re going to send my report. Instead I get another form in the mail to fill out and an indication I need to pay them for my “free” report. I haven’t sat down to look at it yet - bah to them all!!!

Yeah, good luck with that! I had no troubles getting my (free) credit reports from the same website (annual credit report), or with filing a dispute on line for all three companies. However, when 30 days had passed and I had no answer on said dispute and I tried looking up a phone number to call (on each agencies website), the only one that actually had an option to speak to a real person (rather than various automated menus) was Trans-Union. So, for the sake of your blood pressure - start with them.

The law says the reports have to be free.

Doesn’t say they have to be easy.

I had similar difficulties trying to obtain my free reports through the website. Apparently I’ve ordered a report from Trans Union before and I don’t remember what email address I was using at the time so I was stymied. Did you know there’s apparently no way to speak to an employee of Trans Union without first having a TU credit report? So if you’re having trouble getting your TU report there’s no one at the company you can talk to for assistance.

After about an hour of digging through websites I found a phone number to call to place the order. The worst voice recognition software ever. Could not understand the letter “N” in my last name despite repeated attempts. Finally got through it and ordered the reports, which will take 15 business days for me to receive.

Okay; I’ve taken two of the little white pills and am calming down a little. In reading my post, I realize that I apparently started channeling Pee-Wee Herman for awhile, and I also forgot one value-added part of this post: if you want to get your free yearly credit report, the one place you should not go is! It’s real name should be because it’s just selling you repackaged credit reports.

Mauvaise – I agree. My stomach is already churning at the prospect of talking to them. I’m thinking I may just go the snail mail route. Fortunately, I was just curious about my credit and am not desperately trying to start escrow or anything.

I applied twice to equifax to get mine - once on the website and once by snail mail. Each time, I did not receive the report.

Hmmm…I live in the Midwest so my report became available last Tuesday, and I went to and got my Equifax report in about 2 mins.

Filled out the form and chose just Equifax (you can get 1 a year from each of the 3 agencies, so I opted to just get 1 from Equifax for now and will check on the others throughout the year). I opted to just get the form online and print it out.

I didn’t have any discrepencies so really it was no hassle…I urge people not to be scared off by the thought of it being hard, it really isn’t - as long as you go to the right site :wink:


Silly me, when it says “your report will be available online for 30 days” I assumed I could view and print it online for 30 days. Not so much true.

Thank you, groo for taking the time out to express yourself more eloquently than I could have. There was a thread in GQ a few weeks back re free credit report, so I decided to check mine. I basically did what groo did, only to find out that in Virginia, there is no free lunch. After pulling my hair out (and spending about 3 hours) similar to the OP’s experience, I said fuck it and paid Experian for the three credit report. What a colossal PITA.

One thing you should know is that only works if you live in one of the states where you’re already owed a free annual credit report per federal law. (Midwest/plains/Rockies/West Coast, basically; see map at link.) Between now and June (if you’re in GA), or September if you’re in GA, MA, MD, ME, NJ, or VT, you’re entitled to a free credit report under state law, but not yet via the Federal law. In that case, you’ll need to deal with each of the three companies individually. (The rest of you have to wait until June 1 (Southeast) or September 1 (Northeast). Again, see map at link.)

As best as I could tell, only Experian lets you access your credit report directly online; the other two will take your info and snailmail it to you. (I just went through all this rigmarole yesterday.)

Here’s where you go for Experian, if you’re in one of those states: It was a snap. The info it asked for, besides your SSN, was fairly recent stuff that you’d likely know if you are the person you’re claiming to be - but pretty unlikely, in combination, if you were someone else. (For instance, I was asked to pick from a list the make and model of a car I used to own, and (from another list obviously) the name of a street I’d lived on several years back.)

Alternatively, their phone is 888-397-3742. (I didn’t go there.)

For Equifax, it’s probably easiest to call their automated phone line (800-685-1111) which is quite easy to navigate, though they’ll try to sell you a copy of your credit score (which you don’t have to buy). I couldn’t find where to go to order via their website.

For Transunion, it looks as if all you can do online is to download a PDF of a form to apply for your free credit report, which you’d have to snailmail in. Go here. if you don’t mind jumping through those hoops. Might try calling 800-888-4213 first; I didn’t go there, but it might be easier.
Note: I got the phone numbers from this article from yesterday’s WaPo. So they’re current, and this is their intended use.

Yep - giant giant pain. I tried that a few months back, and ended up contributing to the open pit thread at the time. Here you can (could?) only get the free ones by sending away by mail. It was difficult to get the address and forms, took forever to get the reply, and then it only showed super-basic info about my bank accounts and credit cards, leaving out even my credit score.

I heard about the free report, but can’t bring myself to go down that road. I just expected that it would be some kind of run-around PITA hidden-fee BS. Looks like I may have been right. I figure if I ever apply for some kind of credit and get told No, then I’ll worry about my report. Judging by having no debt, and the number of pre-approved(!) card offers I get, I expect I am not in serious credit trouble with The Big Three.

Then again I sense that for most people, the trouble they find is not something they ever thought it could be. Usually from crossed identities. Shrug.

It wasn’t so bad for me. I knew about, so I started there. There was only one that asked really odd questions for their confirmation, at least for me (and that was the street address of a place I lived 7 years ago. Yeah, er, I had to google that complex to figure out what it was).
But that same report, has my current address down at that address - again, that was 7 years ago. It lists my current address (I’ve only been here since September) as a previous address, along with one of my brother’s addresses as another previous address.

So, it’s got me living in Mississippi (3 states ago) with a Maine driver’s license - and I’ve never had one of those. A photo ID, yeah, but not a license. And that was 10 years ago.

But the hassle of getting it wasn’t so bad for me.

Canada is a whole different can of worms. You may be able to obtain a free credit report provided you have been recently turned down for credit from a particular agency. It requires sending photocopied identification and a bunch of other malarky they will discuss with you on the phone (after they try to get you to pay for it).

I was advised that unless you wanted to see your credit report due to a recent denial of credit (and can give details as to where and when), you’re not owed a free report.

/Ms Cyros

I’m in Florida, so I have to wait until June 1 to get my free credit report. In the meantime I’d like to check my score (my rent is going through the roof, so I’m considering buying a house). I’ve seen many Web sites that offer credit reports from TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Does anyone have ideas on which one is the best? The sites I’ve found charge anywhere from $9.95 to $44.85. Do the less expensive sites provide the same info, or should I just fork over the $45?

[hijack]groo, would you mind if I passed your OP along to one of my coworkers? He writes a consumer finance publication, and this sounds like the start of a great article.[/hijack]

RT: For Equifax, it’s probably easiest to call their automated phone line (800-685-1111) which is quite easy to navigate, though they’ll try to sell you a copy of your credit score (which you don’t have to buy).

:dubious: I think you pay for the score, not the listing. Which makes sense, because having a score won’t say peep about whether anyone is screwing with your credit.

I just called Equifax and Experian today. Easy as pie. I’m saving trans-whoever for later in the year. (MA gets one free every 12 months.)

Sure. You have my permission, but check the fine print in the SDMB FAQ; you may need the Chicago Reader’s permission (I hope I’m joking …)

If so, I have to admit to an error. The site that gave me the half-account-numbers was Experian; Trans-Union gave full account numbers, but didn’t have my employment history listed; only accounts. So who knows? Maybe they think I’m a tailor as well.

The fatal errors I made were:

  1. I checked too many “help” buttons, and on one of them, I got kicked back to a page that was badly coded (so it screwed up my birthday)
  2. I attempted to fix an error on my Experian account, which got me into the half-assedly-coded automated dispute process
  3. I wasted about 20 minutes on Equifax’s web-site (not Experian’s) trying in vain to find my free credit report.

Though I’m a little envious of those posters who knew about, that’s okay; you’re not going on my list. But, erislover gets a demerit for having an “easy as pie” experience.

I had so much trouble with Experian’s website when I tried to get my free credit report last week that I finally gave up and (I know, I’m losing major geek cred for this) called the 800 number to have them mail it to me.

But it was just AAAAAGH! I’d enter my password, which would take me to Experian’s main page. I’d click on “get your credit report”, which would take me to…the login page again! Great setup, guys!