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Understanding Credit Reports

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Web: www.phil.frb.org/consumers/creditreport.html.

Just about everyone uses credit, whether it is for car, student, or bank loans; mortgages; or credit cards. Banks and other businesses rely on credit reports, which contain:

  • Social Security numbers, current and previous addresses, nicknames, spouse's name, year of birth, plus current and previous employers;
  • records of loans, credit cards, bank accounts, and retail store accounts;
  • public information on bankruptcy, tax liens, or legal judgments against you;
  • names of people who have obtained copies of your credit report within the last six months (two years for employment purposes).

Consumer reporting agencies (credit bureaus) obtain the information from various sources, including retail stores and banks.

The report can only be shown to:

  • businesses thinking of extending you credit;
  • current or potential employers;
  • insurance companies;
  • government agencies considering granting you certain licenses or benefits;
  • anyone with a legitimate business reason initiated by the consumer.

The decision to grant you a loan or issue you a credit card is made by the business that requested the report, not the credit bureau.

If you are denied credit, the lender must give you the name, address, and telephone number of the company that provided the report.

Even if you have never been denied credit, you have the right to see your report. In making the request include your name, telephone number, addresses for the last five years, Social Security number, and birth date. The agency may charge you for the report, depending on what state you live in.

You should tell the reporting agency if you disagree with anything in your report. Mistakes must be removed. If the reporting agency stands by its original report, however, you have the right to present your side of the story in a short statement that gets attached to your credit report.

Material stays on your report for seven years—ten years if a bankruptcy is involved; it is automatically deleted thereafter. Exceptions are cases of transactions of $150,000 or more (including life insurance), or employment with an annual salary of $75,000 or more.

To obtain your credit report

The three main credit bureaus are:

Equifax Information Services, LLCP.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
(800) 685-1111
www.equifax.com
Experian National Consumer Assistance CenterP.O. Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013
(888) 397-3742
www.experian.com
TransUnion Consumer Disclosure CenterP.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022
(800) 888-4213
www.tuc.com

Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

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