Your credit report is information regarding your borrowing and repayment history using information from your creditors and public records such as court documents. Credit bureaus do not approve or reject you as a credit risk.
The law guarantees you access to your own credit report and the basic information that is sent to creditors. The credit bureaus must disclose: 1) All information (except for medical information) on file at the time of your request 2) The sources of the information on file 3) The name of anyone who received your credit report for employment purposes within the past two years, and 4) The name of anyone receiving your credit report for any other purpose within the prior six months.
How to Get a Free Credit Report
The credit report is free if you have been refused credit, employment, or insurance within 30 days – based on a credit report from the credit bureau from which you now seek a report. In practice, the bureaus usually honor a request for a free report anytime within 60 days after credit is refused. However, credit bureaus that did not issue a report that was the basis for the denial can still charge you a credit report fee.
You are also entitled to a free report once a year if you certify that any of the following are true:
- unemployed and seeking employment
- receiving public welfare assistance
- a victim of fraud and your file may contain inaccuracies
If you do not fall into any category allowing you to get a free report, the fees vary between bureaus and even different regional offices of the same agency. Therefore, you should check with the credit bureau before you formally request your credit report. Generally, the fees are under $10.
It is not difficult to contact the credit bureaus to obtain your credit report. You will know whom to contact if you have been denied credit, because the creditor must then send you a letter explaining why you were denied credit and the name of the credit bureau to request a credit bureau report.
To request a credit bureau report, you may call or write directly to the agency. You should state:
- Your full name. State any aliases or maiden name. Also include your middle initial, and generational indicators: Jr., Sr., II, or III.
- Current address and former addresses for the last 5 years. If you have moved in the last 6 months, provide proof of address from a utility bill or phone bill. The credit bureau may not have your current address on file as yet.
- Social security number. This must be included to process your request.
- Spouse’s name
- State whether you have been denied credit within 60 days (include a copy of the credit denial or related details.)
You may also visit the credit bureau in person. The bureau will then require you to complete a credit report request form that contains the above information.
Others may also get a copy of your credit report. However, the Fair Credit Reporting Act provides that only businesses and individuals with a legitimate business need for the information may obtain your credit report. This includes credit card issuers, lenders, businesses with which you want credit privileges, as well as anyone with a court order or a subpoena issued in connection with a Federal grand jury inquiry, insurance companies underwriting insurance, a prospective employer or any government agency that must consider your financial responsibility in connection with the issuing of a license. It would be a violation of federal law for someone without a legitimate credit-related purpose to access your files.
There are over 1000 credit bureaus in the United States. However, most creditors will request your information from one (or all) of the three largest. If you have been denied credit, have a dispute, or just want to know what’s in your credit file, you would need to request a credit report from all three major credit bureaus. In addition, you would need to send a letter to all three major credit bureaus to feel certain that you have completely removed any obsolete information that may appear in any credit report a potential creditor may request.
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