Under federal law you are entitled to a copy of your credit report annually from all three credit reporting agencies - Experian®, Equifax® and TransUnion® - once every 12 months. Every consumer should check their credit reports from each of the 3 bureaus annually. Doing so will make sure your credit is up-to-date and accurate. Each reporting agency collects and records information in different ways and may not have the same information about your credit history.
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What can you do to correct these potentially costly errors? The first step is to contact the credit bureaus and the creditors or service provider to check on – and potentially challenge – the information. If the problem is an unpaid debt in an account that was taken out fraudulently in your name, you might have to file a police report and affidavit, Ulzheimer says. This helps separate you from others who tell credit bureaus and creditors the same story, but who are actually trying to get out of paying their bills.
SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT COLLECTIONS: Collection agencies will often report debts to the credit bureaus in an attempt to collect from the consumer. This is perfectly legal as defined by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The issue here is that, intentionally or not, collection agencies sometimes report to the credit bureaus using a newer “purge from” date despite the fact that this is not allowed under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The result of this misreporting is that the collection item will remain on the credit file longer than they should. If that happens, you can dispute the old account.
If it’s been a long time since you checked your credit report, there’s a good chance it contains incorrect or outdated information. Eighty percent of credit reports contain bad information, according to Deborah McNaughton, founder of Professional Credit Counselors. Common credit report errors include wrong birth dates, misspelled names and incorrect account details. It can take 30 to 45 days to get your credit report corrected.
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Lenders use these reports to help them decide if they will loan you money, what interest rates they will offer you. Lenders also use your credit report to determine whether you continue to meet the terms of an existing credit account. Other businesses might use your credit reports to determine whether to offer you insurance; rent a house or apartment to you; provide you with cable TV, internet, utility, or cell phone service. If you agree to let an employer look at your credit report, it may also be used to make employment decisions about you.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the three credit reporting bureaus to supply consumers with a free credit report once per year. Federal law also entitles consumers to receive free credit reports if any company has taken adverse action against them. This includes denial of credit, insurance or employment as well as reports from collection agencies or judgments, but consumers must request the report within 60 days from the date the adverse action occurred. In addition, consumers who are on welfare, people who are unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days, and victims of identity theft are also entitled to a free credit report from each of the reporting agencies.
Just want to read your credit report without seeing your score? You can do that once a year, completely free, at www.annualcreditreport.com. The nice thing about this government-sanctioned site is that you can request reports from all three bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Because some banks use only one or two of the reports to make lending decisions, it’s always a good idea to make sure all three contain accurate information about your borrowing history.
Another common question is whether checking your own credit report or score can hurt it. The answer is no. Checking your own credit scores doesn't lower them. Checking your own credit report creates a special kind of inquiry (known commonly as a soft inquiry) that isn't considered in credit score calculations. Without the risk of harming your scores by checking your credit report and scores frequently, don't steer away from viewing them as often as you need to.
Nothing in the scoring models suggest that carrying credit card debt month to month is beneficial. It is totally possible to establish a good credit score by paying off your credit card on time and in full every month. Don’t plan to pay interest — in other words, don’t pay just the minimum payment — to build your credit score. It won’t help with your score, and it will cost you a staggering interest payment.
You had an application denied because of information on your credit report. It includes credit, insurance, and employment applications. You have 60 days from the date you learn of the denial to ask for a free copy of your credit report. The company will send you a notice that includes contact information for the credit bureau who provided the report used in making the decision.
Establish new credit – If you’ve filed bankruptcy or have serious delinquencies, the best way to rebuild your score is to jump right back in and establish new credit. But this time you have to manage your accounts more responsibly. Make your payments on time and don’t use up more than 20% of the available credit limits on your credit cards. If you can do this then your scores will increase much faster than simply waiting for your delinquencies to fall off your reports.
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