Call Don’t Click Update: Appendix F – Consumer Tips
A general tip for all consumers is to stagger report requests by 3 or 4 months. For example, order a free Experian credit report in September, then order a free TransUnion report in January, and then order a free Equifax report in May, and so on. In this way, you can keep a close eye on your credit all year long.
Generally speaking, The World Privacy Forum recommends that the simplest way for most people to access a free credit report is to either call or to mail for the report. For those who decide to retrieve a free credit report via the www.annualcreditreport.com site , we recommend taking commonsense computer security and safety measures prior to placing an order.
The tips below include information on all three forms of ordering the reports: online, phone, and mail.
Online Tip: Beware of Imposter Domains
Check to make sure you are accessing the official www.annualcreditreport.com site. Many fake, imposter domains have been put up. These domains often are very misleading, and typically will not help you find your way to your federally mandated free credit report.
Online tip: Do not use a library or public computer to access your free credit report.
Shared computers may inadvertently help share your credit report information with others. Only access your report online via your own computer, or a trusted computer. A work computer is also a poor choice for accessing your free credit report online.
Online tip: Giving An Email Address is Voluntary
Know that you are not required to give out your email address in order to obtain a federally mandated free credit report.
Online tip: Ensure you are following basic computer safety rules
Key safety steps include taking the following minimum precautions:
1. Ensure you are at the official site before you submit personal information.
2. Do not use a public computer (such as a library or public rental computer) or use a networked computer at work to order your reports. Generally speaking, ordering your report using work computers is not a good idea.
3. If you order your report using a Wireless Internet connection, ensure that the connection is encrypted.
4. Ensure that the computer you use is not infected with viruses or spyware that could compromise the security of your information.
5. If you use software such as Google desktop search or other search software that saves https files, either deselect https caching or turn the software off during your ordering process.
If at any point in the online ordering process, you see pop-up advertisements or are asked to pay for a free credit report, close the browser and start over or switch to either the phone or the mail method.
Phone and Mail Tips
Phone and mail tip: Ask to mask all but the last four digits of your SSN
When phoning the toll free number (877-322-8228) for a free credit report, request that only the last four digits of your SSN are displayed.
Phone and Mail tip: Get Your Report Mailed to a Secure Mailbox
If you call for your report or have it mailed to you, have your credit report mailed to a secure mailbox. Also see tip #4: ask to mask all but the last four digits of your SSN when the report is mailed to you.
Phone tip: If you have a long or complex last name, or have a strong regional accent, you may have trouble using the automated phone system.
The World Privacy Forum has received a number of consumer complaints due to problems with using the toll free. The complaints tend to originate from consumers who had either very long or complex names, or those who had strong accents. If you have consistent troubles using the phone system, the next preferred method is to use the mail method. Be sure to see the mailing method tip below.
Storage and Disposal Tips
After you have received your credit report, store it in a secure location where you are sure only you and others you trust can access it. A locked file cabinet, for example, would be a preferable storage location to a paper file stored on top of a desk. If you decide to throw your credit report away, it is important to shred your report before placing it in the trash. Preferably, the shredder you use will be a cross-cut shredder.
If you have accessed your credit report electronically, print out the credit report. Ensure that that no electronic copies of the report remain on the computer. This is especially important for those using laptop computers.