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Learn how to read credit reports and how to improve credit score

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! Correct inaccurate info and improve credit score.

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  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?
  9. Credit Scores and how to improve yours.

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 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.

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.

You qualify to Get Your Free Credit Report from each bureau once a year.

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 under the new FACTA law and/or if you certify in writing that:

  • You’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days;
  • You’re on welfare; or
  • Your report is inaccurate because of fraud.

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. If it isn’t, it could be costing you higher interest rates, higher insurance and other damages. Learn how the Fair Credit Reporting Act process works and how Free Fair Credit reporting Lawyers can help you.

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 in red. 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 and follow these record keeping and mailing 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. Here is a sample credit report dispute letter you might like to use.

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.

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 Credit Reporting Statute of Limitations

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 past due debt, they have a legitimate reason to pull and review your credit reports.

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.

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

Credit Reporting Agencies can report negative information as follows:

7 Years:

General negative information, (late payments, charge offs, repossessions, foreclosures, and so forth)

Information about a lawsuit or an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the federal’s or state’s statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer.

10 Years:

Bankruptcy information

Unlimited: (No time limit)

Criminal convictions;

Credit information reported in response to an application for a job with a salary of more than $75,000; and

Credit information reported because of an application for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance.

For more in-depth information see Credit Laws.

Credit Scores

Think of your credit score as a picture of your credit risk. This picture reflects your risk at a specific point in time. A picture does not change; however, when you take another one, you will probably look a little different. Similarly, when your credit information changes, your score will also change to reflect the updated information.

There are steps you can take to ensure that each time a new snapshot of your credit history is taken, it shows your best side. You can influence your credit worthiness for the better: Learn how with a free Fair Credit Case review

Learn more about the Fair Credit Reporting process and get an in-depth explanation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act including how to read your credit reports, what information debt and bill collectors can and cannot report to the credit reporting agencies. Plus a wealth of other tips and techniques to help you repair your own credit profile.

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