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Every American is entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major bureaus every year. But did you know you may be eligible for more credit reports in certain cases? Read on for information about when you can get a free credit report.

You haven’t gotten your free credit report in the past 12 months

Your free annual report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus is available to you thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. You can request all three reports at once or stagger them throughout the year. To get your reports, go to AnnualCreditReport.com and enter your personal information to verify your identity.

You’re an identity theft victim

If there is fraudulent information on your credit report, including identity theft, you’re entitled to a free report from each of the three major reporting bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Once you’ve discovered that you’re a victim of identity theft, call one of the bureaus to place an initial fraud alert. That bureau will contact the other bureaus. This alert stays on your reports for at least 90 days, then it can be renewed.

After placing the fraud alert, you can contact each of the three credit reporting bureaus for your free reports. Use our guide on how to read your credit report to check for any discrepancies and report them.

You’re unemployed or on public welfare

If you’re between jobs, you can get free credit reports — provided you’re looking for a job in the next two months. You’re also entitled to free reports if you’re on public welfare assistance. Call all three of the major credit bureaus to request reports if you’re in one of these circumstances.

You’re denied credit, insurance or employment based on your credit history

If a company has taken adverse action against you because of your credit history, you can get a free credit report from each of the three bureaus. In order to take advantage of this, you need to request your reports within 60 days of receiving the notice of adverse action.

I’m not eligible for a free report, but I want one — can I buy it?

If you want your credit reports, but aren’t eligible for free copies at this time, you can pay for them. Contact each of the three bureaus to request your paid copy:

Unless you qualify for a free report, you likely don’t need one. It’s enough to check your credit reports once a year, plus whenever an extenuating circumstance — like those listed above — occurs. Of course, you can purchase one, two or all three if you so desire.

The takeaway: Not only can you get a free credit report from each of the three bureaus annually, you can also get free reports if you’re a victim of identity theft, you’re unemployed or on welfare, or a company has taken adverse action against you because of your credit history. If you don’t qualify for a free report at this time, you can purchase additional reports from the bureaus, though it’s probably not necessary.

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