These companies collect information and produce reports on people’s credit histories, which they may provide to a lender who is considering advancing credit to you.
Checking your credit report for free
Private companies called "credit reporting agencies" collect information related to your access to and use of credit. They make that information available to others under certain circumstances in the form of a "credit report." Lending institutions, employers, insurance agencies, and future creditors make decisions about you from the information in your credit report. Your credit report is an important document, and the law gives you certain protections against the reporting of incorrect information. Knowing your legal rights and remedies is a first step to resolving any problems related to your credit report.
Note: Your Credit Report is Free! Under state and federal law, you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report per calendar year from each of the three main credit reporting agencies noted above. Requesting a copy every year to ensure your report is without errors is worthwhile and recommended. If you ever apply for and are denied credit, you should immediately get a copy of your report to verify that all the information is correct. You have the right to know which credit reporting agency prepared the report that was used in the denial of your credit application. Under state law, you have the right to a free copy of your credit report within 60 days of being denied credit. Visit the annual credit report website or call (877) 322-8228 to request your free annual credit report.
Correcting your credit report
If there is incorrect information in your credit report, you may ask the credit reporting agency to investigate. For most items, you must do so in writing and can use a trackable method like certified mail to ensure that it is received. Certain items may be disputed directly online when viewing your credit report. If an item is available to be disputed online, all dispute options available will appear next to that item. The credit reporting agency must investigate your claim within 30 business days by asking the creditor in question to review its records, unless the agency believes that the dispute is "frivolous or irrelevant." Within 5 business days of its receipt of your request, a credit reporting agency must notify the creditor that you are disputing the information.The credit reporting agency is required to correct, complete, or delete any information that is erroneous, incomplete, or unverified.
Most negative information that is more than 7 years old may not be included in your credit report. There are several exceptions to this rule; the primary one is bankruptcy, which may be reported for up to 10 years. These rules do not apply if the credit transaction is for $50,000 or more, or if the report is being provided in connection with employment in a job that involves an annual salary of $20,000 or more.
If you disagree with the results of the credit reporting agency's investigation of the accuracy of an item on your credit report, you have the right to prepare a brief statement that explains your version of the dispute. The credit reporting agency is then required to include this statement with your credit report each time it sends out the report.
If after investigation, a credit reporting agency determines that certain information about you is inaccurate or can no longer be verified, it must delete that information within 3 business days. If an investigation fails to resolve the dispute, you may submit a statement of no more than 100 words describing the dispute. The credit reporting agency must include a copy of that statement with any credit report it issues.
If information is deleted from your credit report file because it is inaccurate or cannot be verified, it may not be placed back on to your report unless the creditor verifies that the information is accurate. If deleted information is added back on a credit report, the credit reporting agency must give you a toll-free number to call sou you can ask for the name, address, and telephone number of the person who directed the agency to add deleted information. Within 15 days of receiving such a request, the agency must give you that information.
You may elect to have your name and address excluded from any list provided by a credit reporting agency to parties who wish to extend a "firm offer of credit" to consumers, such as "pre-screened" credit card offers. You can contact the credit reporting agency by a toll-free number or at the address that you were given.