Consumers have access to a free annual credit report from each of Equifax, Transunion, and Experian thanks to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act passed in 2003. However, this may be too infrequent to keep adequate tabs on one's identity in light of the frequency and severity of major data breaches. What prevents access to one's own identity data on a continuous basis? Is it simply that the bureaus choose to rise only to the bare minimum required by law? Or are there more reasonable explanations?

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    There are a lot of people in the country, and the world runs on money (the data center must be paid for, the computers paid for, the networking equipment must be paid for, the people that maintain them must be paid, network providers must be maintained, the electricity must be paid for, etc, etc, etc), not proletarian good will.
    – RonJohn
    Jul 13 '19 at 20:38
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    A good strategy is to request it three times a year. One credit agency at a time.
    – JohnFx
    Jul 14 '19 at 1:31
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    @RonJohn That said, they have major streams of revenue other than selling me my own identity. My intuition says that cutting the ID theft protection sales would not impact their ability to keep the lights on. If you have relevant data to share, that would be helpful. Jul 14 '19 at 11:41
  • Twice or three times per year would not be unreasonable, but your question said, "on a continuous basis".
    – RonJohn
    Jul 14 '19 at 12:35
  • You could always move to europe. Europe made laws compelling companies to give you all the information they have on you. I couldn't quickly find out how often but a case could be made for once a month
    – xyious
    Jul 15 '19 at 18:41

The credit agencies have zero interest to give you (or anyone else) a free credit report; their business is based on selling this information.
Left alone, they wouldn't give you the time of day for free.

Because there is a law, they are forced to let you pull a report once a year, so they do. Anything more would cut into their income, so they will not offer it until required by a stricter law.

  • Actually, there are more and more companies offering you the ability to see you your credit report for free to lure you to them so they can get get you to sign up for new financial products and earn commission. Jul 16 '19 at 8:21

I can't speculate on why the law was written that way but the credit agencies benefit significantly from following the minimum of this law. A major part of their business is selling access to ones credit report. If it were free they would lose this substantial income stream

My understanding is the once a year is a compromise between their financial interest in selling access to credit histories and the consumers right to protect their identity.


The situation has changed since 2003. The free yearly report was a big step forward and did what it was supposed to do. Now of course more people are concerned about fraud and identity theft, but back in 2003 the issue was errors.

Now several of my credit cards offer free monthly credit score updates, which can serve as an initial signal of a potential issue.

It would take a big push to move to more frequent free reports.

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