A credit report is a file that contains important information about specific consumers. It includes information on where you live, how timely you make your payments, whom you owe money to, public records (bankruptcy, judgments, etc.) and your credit score. The three nationwide consumer credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion compile this information and sell it in the form of credit reports to creditors, banks, employers and insurance companies. These businesses use this information to evaluate your credit history.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting agencies provide a consumer with a free credit report, at your request, annually. It is important that you periodically review your credit report to ensure accuracy as the content of the credit score can impact your ability to borrower money, your insurance premiums, ability to obtain employment and the interest rates you pay on various loans and credit card accounts.
You can access your FREE credit report online, via phone or by mailing a request.
You may request a report from each of the three agencies at once or you can order a report from each one individually at different times during the year. By spreading out the three different reports, it may help you to monitor the activity throughout the year. Do not contact the credit agencies directly nor should you use any other website that claims to be offering a free credit report. Other websites might lead you to believe you are at the correct website but may in fact be trying to sell you something or collecting personal identifying information from you.
If after careful review of your credit report, you find inaccurate information:
1. Contact one of the credit reporting agencies, in writing, of the specific nature of the discrepancy;
2. Identify in your letter, your complete name, address and identify the discrepancy;
3. Attach a copy of the credit report with item(s) identified and/or supporting documentation;
4. Request the inaccurate information be removed or corrected;
5. Retain a copy of your dispute letter and supporting information;
6. Mail the request by certified mail with a return request receipt;
The credit reporting agency must investigate all disputes within 30 days of written notification, unless they determine the information is frivolous. The credit reporting agency will contact the creditor and include copies of the dispute and supporting documents. If the creditor finds the information is inaccurate, it is required to notify all three credit reporting agencies of the changes. In response; the credit reporting agency must provide to you in writing the results of the review and a free copy of your credit report if the dispute results in a change to the credit report.
If a dispute does not resolve the disputed item, you may ask that a statement be placed in the credit report that indicates that the consumer disputes the accuracy of the information contained in the report.
You may also elect to dispute information directly with the creditor. The credit reporting agency can identify the name, address and telephone number of each of the creditors contained within your report. It is recommended that you then contact those creditors in writing; including any supporting documentation to support the dispute.
If the information is determined to be accurate; the information can be retained on the credit report generally for 7 years; however there are specific items that can be retained for longer periods of time.
Equifax, PO Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374, Toll-Free (800) 685-1111 or www.equifax.com
Experian, PO Box 2104, Allen, TX 75013-0949, Toll-Free (888) 397-3742 or www.experian.com
TransUnion, PO Box 4000, Chester, PA 19016, Toll-Free (866) 887-2673 or www.transunion.com/myoptions
A credit score is a number that identifies your credit risk based on information reported on your credit report. All three agencies report a score based on payment history, amounts owed, the length of credit history, amount of new credit and types of credit used. For valuable information provided by Fair Isaac Corporation, visit Understanding your FICO.