Article by Joe Rispoli
Your employer probably saw a copy before hiring you and your landlord likely considered it before accepting you as a tenant. Long distance telephone carriers and cell phone companies even look at it before providing their services. And you’ve never even seen your own credit report? In fact, according to a recent study, less than 20% of all Americans have ever seen their credit report. Most people become concerned about their credit report only when they are denied credit. By that time, it’s usually too late.
You should take a look at your credit report at least once every 2 years. This way, information is still accessible and verifiable in the case that you may need to have it corrected. You should also look at your credit report before applying for any credit. This may help to avoid any unwelcome surprises. Allowing you to look at exactly what your loan manager will look at, can prepare you for any questions.
If you’ve never had credit problems, you might think that you need not be concerned. But according to a recent government study, one out of every four credit reports contain errors, one out of every six contain errors that could cause denial of credit. Sometimes Credit reports are accidentally combined, and people with similar names or social security numbers actually share a credit report! It’s not at all uncommon for family members to have overlapping data. Nor is it uncommon for a credit card or loan company to accidentally list you as having missed a payment.
Have you ever received a late notice or collection letter on something that you already have paid? I’m sure you made a phone call or two and straightened it out immediately. But what about the monthly report to the credit bureau? You can’t help but wonder if the mistake got corrected on that report. The only way to find out what is actually on your credit report is to look at it for yourself. When you do, you may be surprised to see that your credit record looks quit different than you expected. The past and present credit accounts that you expected to see, may not be listed, and still other accounts that you did not expect to see might be listed. This is not at all uncommon because creditors are not required to report our account to a credit bureau. They are free to report only the information that they see fit.
This situation may provide for a pleasant surprise, if a past loan that became delinquent doesn’t show up on your report. It may also provide a very unpleasant surprise, if something you thought unimportant was reported. Like maybe a non paid magazine subscription, or even worse, someone else’s delinquent account record. The only way to find out what is on your report is to see a copy for yourself!
Here are some questions and answers that will help explain what a credit report is and how to get one.
What does it mean to have good or bad credit?
Having good credit means that according to your past creditors, your record (credit report) is clean. You made payments, and paid off your past debts satisfactorily. Having bad credit is just the opposite. Your record (credit report) shows that you have not paid off your past debts as agreed. This could mean late payments, collections, non-pays etc… This information is held at the “credit bureau”, and is provided to those businesses that request it.
What is the Fair Credit Reporting Act?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act is the federal law that governs credit bureaus. The law was written to protect consumers from the obvious power that credit bureaus can have over their lives.
Do I have a right to know what my credit report says about me?
Yes, the Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you that right. This law also gives you the right to obtain a copy of your report for free, with a letter of denial of credit, if that denial of credit was due to information found on your credit report.
What is on my credit report?
Your credit report contains information about your credit card accounts, loans, charge accounts, and items of public record such as bankruptcies, tax liens, and judgments. It will list each account on record, who the account was with, how much was borrowed, how much was paid, and how timely the payments were made. It will also list any accounts sent to collection agencies, accounts not paid in full, and defaulted loans.
Who has access to my credit report?
According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, anyone with a “legitimate business need”. However, in most cases the report is only provided to credit grantors, employers or prospective employers, landlords, and insurance underwriters.
Are ALL of my accounts listed on my credit report?
Probably not. Businesses have a right (but not the obligation) to report to any or all credit bureaus, at their discretion. Your previous credit grantors might have reported your credit experience to just one credit bureau, all three large credit bureaus, or they might not have reported it to any credit bureau. However, most large credit grantors report to TRW, Transunion, or Equifax.
What will it cost me to get a copy of my credit report?
You can acquire a credit report from the credit reporting agencies below for free. If you’re located in the United States and Canada, you can do this once a year. You also may obtain a free copy of your report from any credit bureau that provided information that caused you to be turned down for credit.
For complete, up to date information how to receive a copy of your credit report, you may contact the three largest credit bureaus directly at:
TRW (800) 392-1122 Trans Union (714) 738-3800 Equifax (800) 685-1111
This information is provided for informational purposes only. The author assumes No liability. You should retain professional legal or financial assistance if required.
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Content 2008 Joe Rispoli
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