COVID-19: Free Annual Credit Report Now Available Weekly



In a rare joint action, the national credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion have announced they are now offering free weekly credit reports to all Americans in an effort to protect their financial health during the sudden and unprecedented hardship caused by COVID-19. 

Available through the Annual Credit Report portal, the free reports will be accessible through April 2021. 

“These are unprecedented times facing the world. People are feeling scared and uncertain about the future. To help play our part and reduce some of that anxiety, we are uniting as an industry to help people know the facts about their financial data,” Mark W. Begor, CEO of Equifax; Brian Cassin, CEO of Experian; and Chris Cartwright, CEO of TransUnion, indicated in a joint statement. “We are making credit reports more accessible more often so people can better manage their finances and take necessary steps to protect their credit standing.”

As noted by the credit agencies, the “hardship” has spread rapidly over the last few weeks with the novel coronavirus shutting down much of the country. That led to approximately 22 million workers – or 13 percent of the U.S. labor force – filing for unemployment. In addition, almost 3 million borrowers have requested a forbearance on their home mortgage. 

Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act – or CARES Act – creditors and other financial institutions are required to report to the credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion that consumers are current on their loans and other obligations if relief was sought due to the pandemic. 

Credit vigilance is critical during these uncertain times. Consumers are advised to review their credit reports frequently to determine how their payment behavior is being reported. The single most important action for consumers who cannot pay their bills is to contact their creditors to determine what assistance is available.

“To help play our part and reduce some of that anxiety, we are uniting as an industry to help people know the facts about their financial data,” the CEOs concluded. “We are making credit reports more accessible more often so people can better manage their finances and take necessary steps to protect their credit standing.” 

Accessible through the Annual Credit Report portal, the free weekly credit reports are available through April 2021. 

“Reviewing your credit report on a regular basis is a simple way to be proactive about your financial well-being,” Steve Swickle of Fort Lauderdale told South Florida Reporter. “And with 156 opportunities over the next 12 months, it just got easier.” 

Credit Freeze is Free Under New Federal Law


A year after the devasting data breach at Equifax – one that left the sensitive personal information of over 143 million Americans exposed – consumers can now better protect themselves against identity theft.

Replacing a patchwork of state credit freeze laws, new legislation now requires the credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to allow consumers an opportunity to “freeze” or otherwise “lock” their credit report from public disclosure without fee. Temporary “fraud alerts” can also be extended to one-year from the previous 90 days.

Place an Equifax credit freeze – Experian credit freeze – TransUnion credit freeze.

With the passage of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act – or EGRRCPA – in May, Congress amended the Fair Credit Reporting Act instituting several important changes. Effective Sept. 21, nationwide credit reporting agencies are statutorily mandated to provide a global credit freeze to consumers free of charge. Previously, 42 states – including Florida – allowed Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to charge consumers for locking their credit report. Unless a consumer was a verified identity theft victim, they were charged anywhere from $2-$10 – per credit bureau – each time they locked or unlocked their credit report.

A credit freeze – also referred by some as a security freeze or lock – was designed to make it more difficult for criminals to use stolen personal information to open new accounts fraudulently as credit reporting agencies were prohibited from providing credit information to potential lenders. Under the new legislation, initial fraud alerts are extended from 90 days to one year. No change has been implemented on the seven-year extended fraud alert.

Under the EGRRCPA, nationwide credit reporting agencies are now required to remove the fee for maintaining a credit freeze and must provide consumers a webpage for credit freeze and fraud alert requests.

Place an initial Equifax fraud alert – initial Experian fraud alert – initial TransUnion fraud alert.

Previously, freezing your credit report at the Equifax, Experian and TransUnion consumer reporting agencies was governed by state law. And with dozens of states allowing credit bureaus to charge a fee each time a report was locked or unlocked, consumers rarely took advantage of the opportunity unless they were specifically at risk for identity theft. The number of situations requiring a credit report were abundant. Whether applying for employment or insurance, a new cell phone or home utilities, a new credit card, vehicle or home mortgage loan, the cost could really become excessive.

“Freezing and unfreezing my credit report got to be an expensive proposition,” Fort Pierce businessman Tony DiFrancesco told the South Florida Reporter. “Each time I applied for credit, it was another $20 – $10 to thaw my report, then another $10 to freeze it again. The fees were ridiculous.”

With the new law now in effect, freezing and unfreezing a credit report has been made simple as each of the credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, TransUnion – has an online portal dedicated to processing consumer requests. Now when a request to freeze a report has been received online or by telephone, it must be processed with one day. Likewise, a request to unfreeze a credit report must be completed with one hour.

Consumers are also protected under the provisions of the new Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act with the ability to establish a credit freeze for their minor children.

Place an Equifax child freeze – Experian child freeze – TransUnion child freeze.

According to a recent Javelin Research survey, more than one million children – or 1.48 percent of minors in the United States – were victims of identity theft in 2017, resulting in total losses of $2.6 billion and $540 million in out-of-pocket costs to families. Parents can now freeze their child’s social security number for credit purposes – a number typically issued shortly after birth – and reduce the potential for life altering identity theft issues.

“As a victim of identity theft, I look forward to being able to block my kids personal information from unlawful use,” Xavier Mitjavila Moix told the South Florida Reporter. “It’s all about piece of mind and the new legislation is a start in the right direction.”

To learn more about credit freezes and fraud alerts, the Federal Trade Commission provides a wealth of resources at

How to Order a Free Credit Report



Before applying for an automobile, credit card, or home mortgage loan, it’s a good idea to check your credit report for errors. Banks, credit unions, auto finance and mortgage lenders have all raised the bar when making credit granting decisions. Long gone are the days when a 620 FICO credit score sufficed. Borrowers with bad credit are being turned down or forced to pay significantly higher interest rates when applying. Those with low credit scores have even been denied employment opportunities and automobile insurance.

Negative information contained in credit reports – such as late payments, collection accounts and public record entries – determine whether you can obtain credit, goods, benefits, services, employment and/or insurance. It’s important to review your Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports on a regular basis and correct any information that is inaccurate, erroneous, obsolete, or fraudulent due to possible identity theft.

Don’t be scammed by the numerous “free credit report” opportunities found on the Internet. While dozens of companies offer that so-called “free credit report,” many of them have strings attached, such as subscription-based opt-in requiring you to provide credit card information.

You really can obtain a free copy of your credit report.

Under a narrow set of circumstances, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report directly from the credit reporting agencies. If you have been denied credit, goods, benefits, services, employment or insurance, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are statutorily mandated under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to provide a copy without charge.

Equifax can be contacted at (800) 685-1111 or online at

Experian can be contacted at (888) 397-3742 or online at

Trans Union can be contacted at (800) 916-8800 or online at

When ordering credit reports, be sure to indicate that you were denied credit, goods, benefits, services and/or employment when prompted. Absent these exceptions, you are entitled to one free “annual credit report” per year. For your free annual credit report, contact the central source at 877-FACT-ACT (877-322-8228) or online at Follow the voice prompts and obtain your credit report for review.

Credit scores are not included with any of the “free credit reports” provided by the national credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Protect Yourself From Credit Repair Scams


With an improved economy and real estate prices on the rise, your good name and reputation are more important than ever when applying for new credit cards, an automobile, rental property or home mortgage. Many creditors have tightened their lending guidelines, effectively barring millions of Americans from borrowing money.

Long gone are the days of obtaining credit, goods, benefits, services and/or employment with a 620 FICO score. In most instances, a borrower will be denied if they maintain a credit score lower than 740. Even those with high credit scores have experienced reduced credit lines or closed credit card accounts and equity lines. When an account has not been closed, credit limits have been reduced to the existing balance due.

Mortgage lenders, auto finance companies, credit card issuers, credit unions and traditional banks have all raised the bar. Borrowers with low FICO scores can expect to be denied credit or to pay significantly higher interest rates than those with excellent repayment histories.

With about 52 percent of credit profiles at the Equifax, Experian or TransUnion consumer reporting agencies containing some sort of error or omission materially impacting credit worthiness, some turn to credit repair to remedy low credit scores and issues that prevent them from borrowing money. Absent self-help and the “do-it-yourself” approach, they hire a credit service organization in the restoration of their good name and reputation.

The terms credit repair, credit restoration or credit rehabilitation are somewhat synonymous. Those with bad repayment histories cannot afford to ignore the potential benefits of credit repair. In today’s economy, a strong FICO score is more important than ever.

Beware, though, when hiring a credit repair company.

Most — but not all — credit service organizations specialize in the restoration of consumer credit worthiness as well as issues related to identity. Assuming that the credit repair company is performing within established guidelines, they utilize laws enacted by Congress to dispute negative, erroneous, obsolete and/or fraudulent information contained within your consumer credit profile.

Utilizing the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Billing Act and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, a reputable credit service organization will assist in the submission of disputes electronically, verbally and in writing to the Equifax, Experian and TransUnion consumer reporting agencies. Disputes are also submitted to creditors, collection agencies, and third-party record providers, in addition to state, federal, and local regulatory authorities.

Unlike most credit repair clinics that submit the same written complaint letters monthly, a reputable credit repair company will have devised a strategy whereby disputes are submitted electronically, verbally and in writing over a long period of time to the credit reporting agencies, creditors, collection agencies and third-party record providers reporting negative, inaccurate, obsolete and erroneous information.

Keep in mind that anything a credit repair company can do, you can do yourself for little to no cost. With that said, a reputable credit service organization should have an edge over consumer driven disputes as they will possess the education, knowledge and a source proven method that is generally unknown to the average consumer.

A reputable credit service organization should have a provable track record of results in the modification or removal of erroneous and inaccurate judgments, liens, mortgage foreclosures, bankruptcies, short-sales, student loans, credit inquiries, derogatory accounts and collection agency entries, personal identifiers and other transient data from a consumer’s credit report. Although the credit restoration process can take many months, most individuals should see some results within the first 45 to 60 days.

Credit repair, credit restoration and credit rehabilitation is as legal as pleading “not guilty” in a court of law. One must understand, though, that most credit service organizations are not law firms and that their employees may not be licensed to practice law. As such, even a reputable credit repair company cannot provide legal advice, nor may they represent a consumer before any court or in any legal proceeding. In the event that legal representation is required, the credit repair company should provide an appropriate attorney referral for consultation.

When self-help or the “do-it-yourself” approach is not feasible and you decide to hire a credit repair company to restore your credit, be sure to check them out. While the majority of credit repair clinics are scams, a few good ones do exist. Consumers can check out a credit service organization through their state Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission at or through the Better Business Bureau at

Mortgage delinquency rates to remain high while credit card rates to drop

Credit Cards and Mortgages
Credit Cards and Mortgages

On Wednesday, TransUnion released its annual forecast on two primary consumer credit variables – mortgage and credit card delinquency rates.

The national mortgage loan delinquency rate – or the ratio of borrowers that are 60 or more days past due – is projected to decline to 5.06 percent by the end of 2013 from an estimated 5.32 percent this year.  TransUnion forecasts mortgage delinquencies, a statistic generally considered to be a precursor to foreclosure, will decline in 34 states and the District of Columbia with only 13 states experiencing increases.

“As house prices and unemployment slowly improve, TransUnion’s forecast indicates that the national mortgage delinquency rate will gradually drop throughout 2013,” said Tim Martin, group vice president of U.S. housing in TransUnion’s financial services business unit, in a prepared release. “While we are encouraged by the direction of the forecast, we would have hoped for a projection that called for a more substantive drop in delinquencies.  If the pace of improvement does not pick up, it will take a very long time to get back to ‘normal’ delinquency rates.”

The mortgage delinquency rate peaked to 6.89 percent in Q4 2009 after rising 12 consecutive quarters from its 1.94 percent mark in Q4 2006. The 255 percent increase was unprecedented in American history.

Based upon the most recent data, the peak in mortgage delinquency rates has dropped 21 percent to 5.41 percent in Q3 2012.

Should TransUnion’s forecast hold true in 2013, the rate would only have dropped about 27 percent over a four year period.  This is still well above the “normal” delinquency rate range of 1.5 to 2 percent.

“The slow improvement pace we are experiencing right now seems to be less about new borrowers not being able to make their payments and more about existing borrowers who have been delinquent for a very long time,” stated Martin. “For example, our analysis shows the delinquency rate would fall to around 2.5 percent, or pretty much normal, if we simply took borrowers who haven’t made a mortgage payment in over a year out of the calculation.  By comparison, pre-recession, it was unusual for a borrower to go more than 6 months without either being able to cure their situation or go through the foreclosure process.”

Credit Cards

Credit card delinquency rates – or the ratio of bankcard borrowers that are 90 or more days delinquent on one or more of their credit cards – are expected to remain relatively low throughout 2013, increasing slightly from 0.83% in Q4 2012 to 0.87% in Q4 2013.

From 2000 until 2011, the credit card delinquency rate has averaged 1.24% during the fourth quarter.  In the 51 quarters since Q1 2000, the credit card delinquency rate has only been below the 0.90% threshold 10 times.

“The credit card delinquency rate continued to remain low in 2012 after reaching its lowest level since 1994 in the second quarter of 2011,” stated Steve Chaouki, group vice president in TransUnion’s financial services business unit, in a prepared release. “We expect much of the same in 2013 as consumers have come to rely on their credit cards for liquidity with continued high unemployment rates and a stagnant economy.

“It should be noted that we have seen credit card delinquencies drift somewhat higher in the last year.  Some of this can be attributed to the fact that credit card delinquencies were so low, that at some point they were bound to increase.  A more significant factor may be that credit card originations have been increasing in the last few years, and with that increase we have seen non-prime borrowers receive not only more credit cards, but also comprise a larger share of new credit cards.”

The latest credit card origination data from TransUnion points to an increase in non-prime credit card borrowers.  The share of non-prime, higher-risk originations – with a VantageScore® credit score lower than 700 – was 29.55 percent in Q2 2012. This was slightly higher than last year with 29.28 percent in Q2 2011and much higher than the 23.86 percent observed in Q2 2010.

Credit card debt per borrower – which has been relatively low since 2010 – is expected to increase from its current $4,996 level (as of Q3 2012) to $5,050 in Q4 2012 and $5,446 at the end of 2013.  This would be the highest credit card debt level since 2009. In Q1 2009, the average credit card debt per borrower peaked at $5,776.

In 2013, thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia are projected to see credit card delinquency increases in with only six states experiencing declines.  

States expected to experience the largest credit card delinquency increases next year include Ohio (11.84%), Missouri (8.33%) and North Dakota 7.50%). However, all of these states still remain below their historic averages. The largest declines in 2013 are expected in Rhode Island (-7.59%), Montana (-5.88%) and Georgia (-5.21%).

TransUnion’s forecasts are based on various economic assumptions, such as gross state product, consumer sentiment, unemployment rates and real estate values. The forecasts would change if there are unanticipated shocks to the global economy affecting recovery in the housing market, or if home prices unexpectedly continue to fall.

The most recent mortgage and credit card delinquency data for the nation can be found at