As COVID-19 slammed the U.S. economy, new scams emerged, with criminals hoping to take advantage of people who had already been victimized by the pandemic. In response, the three major credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—began offering consumers weekly access to their credit reports for free through April 30, 2021.
- Until April 30, 2021, you can get free copies of your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus every week.
- Normally, you're allowed free access to each of your credit reports once every 12 months.
- Reviewing your credit reports regularly can help you spot errors and fraudulent activity.
Why It's Worth Checking Your Credit Report
Your credit report is an important indicator of your financial health. If you have bad credit, it can be challenging to get approved for loans or credit cards. If you do, you'll end up paying higher interest rates. The same goes for auto, homeowners, and even life insurance premiums in many states.
Early in the pandemic, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau called attention to the rise in coronavirus-related scams. Depending on the scam, criminals might try to steal your money, your credit card information, your Social Security number, or all of the above.
If someone gets their hands on your Social Security number, they can open fraudulent accounts in your name. In most cases, though, the only way you'll know that has happened (until the bill collectors start to hound you) is if you check your credit report.
To make it easier for consumers to be vigilant against identity theft, the three major national credit bureaus began offering free credit reports every week through April 2021. Prior to that, consumers were entitled to one free credit report per year from each bureau.
While reviewing your credit report won't stop a cybercriminal from stealing your information and using it for nefarious purposes, it will help you spot fraudulent accounts early on, before they have the chance to negatively affect your credit score because of skipped payments or high balances. If you spot any inaccurate information or evidence of possible fraud, you should alert the credit bureau as soon as possible. All three bureaus explain the steps for doing that on their websites.
While you can request copies of your credit report over the phone or by mail, the easiest and fastest way to view them is online at the official website, AnnualCreditReport.com.
Also note that some free credit monitoring services, including the one that Experian offers, will provide you with real-time updates when changes appear on your credit report, such as new inquiries and newly opened accounts.