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All About Credit Reports

Credit Reports: Learn how to protect your personal creditworthiness!

In today's credit-dependent world, complete and accurate credit reports are more important than ever which is why financial advisors suggest reviewing your credit report for inaccuracies or omissions on a regular basis! Get a free instant credit report on-line and see if the statute of limitations has expired on your personal credit information!

  1. What is a credit report?
  2. What protects me and my credit reports?
  3. How do I get a free report?
  4. What about inaccurate or incomplete credit reports?
  5. What about accurate but negative information!
  6. Who Has Access to My Credit Reports?
  7. Adding Accounts to Your File
  8. What are the statute of limitations on negative information?

Up 1. What is a credit report?

Credit reports contain information about where you live, work, and how you pay your bills. It also shows whether you've been sued, arrested, filed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, or been delinquent on any account.

Consumer reporting agencies (credit bureaus) compile and sell your credit report to businesses who use this information to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, and other purposes allowed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

Accurate reports are especially important if you're considering a major purchase such as buying a home or car or applying for a new job. Checking in advance on the accuracy of information in your credit file could eliminate any surprises and speed the credit-granting process.

Up 2. What protects me and my credit reports?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act protects you by controlling how creditors report payment history, how credit bureaus keep credit history records, and how this information can be shared among lenders.

The law is purposely designed to promote accuracy and ensure the privacy of information used in credit reports. The three major national credit bureaus maintain credit files on millions of consumers nationwide.

Up 3. How do I get a free report?

If you've been denied credit, insurance, or employment because of information supplied by a credit reporting agency, the FCRA says the company you applied to must give you the credit reporting agency's name, address, and telephone number so that you can request a free copy of your report.

If you contact the credit agency for a copy of your report within 60 days of receiving a denial notice, the credit report is free. In addition, you're entitled to one free copy of your report a year if you certify in writing that:

Recent amendments to the FCRA known as FACTA expands your rights and provides for a free credit report every 12 months. Otherwise, a credit reporting agency may charge up to $9.00 per copy of your credit report.

If you simply want a copy of your report, call the CRAs listed in the Yellow Pages under "credit" or "credit rating and reporting." Call each credit bureau listed since more than one agency may have a file on you, some with different information. The three major national credit bureaus are:

  • Equifax
    P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241; (800) 685-1111.
  • Experian (formerly TRW)
    P.O. Box 2002, Allen, TX 75013; (888) EXPERIAN (397-3742).
  • Trans Union
    P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022; (800) 916-8800.

You have the right to know everything contained in your credit report, including any medical information and the sources of such information.

Make sure your report is accurate. To request a free copy of your credit report use this Sample Free Credit Report Request Letter

Up 4. What about inaccurate or incomplete credit reports?

In order to correct inaccurate, incomplete, or outdated credit reports you must dispute them in writing. Here is an overview of the credit report dispute process.

Under the FCRA, both the credit reporting agency and the organization that provided the information to the credit reporting agency, such as a bank or credit card company, have responsibilities for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report.

To protect all your rights under the law, contact both the credit reporting agency and the information provider.

First, tell the credit reporting agency in writing what information you believe is inaccurate. Include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position.

In addition to providing your complete name and address, your letter should clearly identify each item in your report that you dispute, state the facts and explain why you dispute the information, and request deletion or correction.

You'll need to enclose a copy of a current credit report with the items in question circled. Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the CRA received. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.

Dispute credit reports yourself following these credit repair steps

Initial Credit report dispute letter - FREE sample.

Mailing & Record-Keeping Instructions

CRAs must reinvestigate the items in question--usually within 30 days--unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all relevant data you provide about the dispute to the information provider.

After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the CRA, it must investigate, review all relevant information provided by the CRA, and report the results to the CRA.

If the information provider finds the disputed information to be inaccurate, it must notify all nationwide CRAs so they can correct this information in your file.

Disputed information that cannot be verified must be deleted from your file.

  • If your report contains erroneous information, the CRA must correct it.
  • If an item is incomplete, the CRA must complete it. For example, if your file showed that you were late making payments, but failed to show that you were no longer delinquent, the CRA must show that you're current.
  • If your file shows an account that belongs to another person, the CRA must delete it.

When the reinvestigation is complete, the CRA must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change.

If an item is changed or removed, the CRA cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies its accuracy and completeness, and the CRA gives you a written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the provider.

Also, if you request, the CRA must send notices of corrections to anyone who received your report in the past six months.

Job applicants can have a corrected copy of their report sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.

If a reinvestigation does not resolve your dispute, ask the CRA to include your statement of the dispute in your file and in future reports.

Add 100-word Statement - Sample Letter

Second, in addition to writing to the CRA, tell the creditor or other information provider in writing that you dispute an item. Again, include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position.

Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider then reports the item to any CRA, it must include a notice of your dispute. In addition, if you are correct - that is, if the disputed information is not accurate - the information provider may not use it again.

Up 5. What about accurate but negative information!

When negative information in your report is accurate, only the passage of time can assure its removal. Accurate negative information can generally stay on your report for 7 years. There are certain exceptions. See Statute of Limitations on Credit Report Information!

Up 6. Who Has Access to My Credit Reports?

  • Employers or prospective employers
  • Creditors
  • Insurance companies
  • Landlords
  • Debt Collectors

Only people with a legitimate business need can get a copy of your report...this includes debt collectors. When collectors receive or purchase your past due debt, they have a legitimate reason to pull and review your credit reports.

Up 7. Adding Accounts to Your File

Your credit file may not reflect all your credit accounts. Although most national department store and all-purpose bank credit card accounts will be included in your file, not all creditors supply information to CRAs:

Some travel, entertainment, gasoline card companies, local retailers, medical providers and credit unions are among those creditors that don't.

If you've been denied credit because of an "insufficient credit file" or "no credit file" and you have accounts with creditors that don't appear in your credit file, ask the CRA to add this information to future reports.

Although they are not required to do so, many CRAs will add verifiable accounts for a fee. You should, however, understand that if these creditors do not report to the CRA on a regular basis, these added items will not be updated in your file.

Up 8. What are the statute of limitations on negative information? Back

Credit Reporting Agencies can report negative information for 7 years, 10 years and, in some cases unlimited time limits. Statute of Limitations on Credit Report Information!