How to obtain your credit report

A credit report contains important information about you and is an essential tool used by banks, mortgage lenders, credit card issuers and other credit grantors in making credit decisions. Information in your credit report comes from banks, mortgage companies, finance companies and credit card issuers. Information such as bankruptcies, judgements, law suits, and tax liens are reported from public records.

Consumers should review credit histories because mistakes do occur and they can be embarrassing and costly if not corrected. Dormant credit accounts that are no longer in use should be closed by notifying the company in writing. There are three major credit reporting agencies, Experian (formerly TRW), Trans Union and Equifax. Each credit reporting agency maintains an independent credit data base.

Credit reporting agencies are governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This federal law allows a credit reporting agency to report positive information indefinitely. Closed accounts or accounts that have been paid off on time can continue to appear on your credit report for seven years. Negative information such as late payments or accounts in collection can remain on a credit report for seven years. Chapter 7, 11 or 12 bankruptcies can be reported for up to ten years and Chapter 13 bankruptcies are reported for seven years from the date of filing.

If you find entries that you believe are in error, immediately notify the credit reporting agency in writing. When disputing an entry with the credit reporting agency, be specific and provide copies of all supporting documents. Once notified of a possible error, the law requires that the entry be verified or corrected.

Generally, by obtaining a credit report from one company, you can determine if your credit history is being accurately reported. If you find mistakes in one report, it likely that the other reports may have problems and it would be prudent to obtain the additional reports to insure accuracy.

If you have applied for credit and been denied because of a negative entry on your report, you may obtain a copy of your credit report free of charge. Ordinarily, there will be a fee to obtain a copy of the report. If you are married, consider having your spouse obtain a credit report because it may contain different credit information. The enclosed forms and information sheet will assist you in obtaining your credit report(s).

How to Obtain Your Credit Report PDF file Microsoft Word file

Free credit report information from the Federal Trade Commission

May 24, 2012