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Thanks to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, the three major credit reporting companies are required to supply a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months, if you request it. The companies – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax – compile information on your bill-paying history, public records related to debt (such as bankruptcy) and inquiries about your credit.
You can request your free credit report online, over the phone, or via the mail system. To get your free copy of a credit report online, head on over to https://www.annualcreditreport.com/. Then select your state from the drop down box, click “get report” and fill out your information. You will need your previous address if you have lived in your current residence for less than 2 years.
Make sure that you are paying all of your debt on time if possible. Doing so will not only improve your credit rating it will ensure that it doesn’t decline. Paying your debts on time will eventually open up more doors to better interest rate credit cards and other more attractive credit offers. You can set up alerts as reminders to pay your bills so it won’t slip your mind.
A lot of people think that checking their credit score once in a while or just a short period before they apply for credit is enough to get by, and many others don’t even think that far. The truth is that you’re bound to miss a lot if you don’t review at least one of your credit reports on a regular basis. And that’s problematic because what you don’t know about your credit can and will cost you.
If your credit score is above 800, you have an exceptionally long credit history that is unmarred by things such as late payments, collections accounts, liens, judgments, or bankruptcies. Not only do you have multiple established lines of credit, but you have or have had experience with several different types of credit, including installment loans and revolving lines of credit. You generally have a stable work history, usually with one company.
Credit scoring is not limited to banks. Other organizations, such as mobile phone companies, insurance companies, landlords, and government departments employ the same techniques. Digital finance companies such as online lenders also use alternative data sources to calculate the creditworthiness of borrowers. Credit scoring also has much overlap with data mining, which uses many similar techniques. These techniques combine thousands of factors but are similar or identical.
Credit reporting companies must investigate the items in question — usually within 30 days — unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the credit reporting company, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the credit reporting company. If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide credit reporting companies so they can correct the information in your file.
Your credit report lists what types of credit you use, the length of time your accounts have been open, and whether you've paid your bills on time. It tells lenders how much credit you've used and whether you're seeking new sources of credit. It gives lenders a broader view of your credit history than do other data sources, such as a bank's own customer data.

Unfortunately, identity theft is a very real threat to everyone. Even if you don’t keep an eye on your credit reports every other week, that’s OK because monitoring your score can help you make sure your identity isn’t being fraudulently used - a drastic change in your score can indicate that something may be wrong and help you keep track of how your sensitive information is being used.

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Not all of your lenders report to all three of the credit bureaus – While some lenders do report your credit information to all three credit bureaus, this isn’t mandatory. There are almost always going to be differences in your credit history at one or more of the credit bureaus, though many will be minor and won’t affect your ability to get credit.
You can definitely build your credit from scratch by working to improve the factors that go into your score — except for the length of credit history. It’s impossible to travel back in time to open a credit account, so improving this factor just takes patience. Luckily, the length of your credit history isn’t the most important thing that determines your score.
It’s a good idea to look into inquiries from companies whose names you don’t recognize. While it’s possible they could be from companies you’ve done business with (if they report under a different company name, for example), they could also indicate fraud like identity theft, which we mentioned can bring down your credit scores. You’ll want to dispute any errors you discover as soon as you can to avoid further damage. Not sure where to start? You can learn more about disputing an error on your credit report by reading this primer.
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Here, you’ll want to investigate addresses you see that are clearly wrong — in another state, for example — or variations of your name you don’t recognize. They could mean your credit information is getting mixed up with that of someone else, or they could be a sign of identity theft, which can drag down your scores and cause financial trouble. (You can learn more about the dangers of identity theft and how it can hurt your credit scores here.)
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Credit reporting companies must investigate the items in question — usually within 30 days — unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the credit reporting company, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the credit reporting company. If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide credit reporting companies so they can correct the information in your file.
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