Credit Reports -- Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some questions consumers commonly ask about consumer reports and credit bureaus - and the answers. The terms credit bureau and credit reporting agency (CRA) mean the same thing.

Q. How do I find the credit bureaus that have my report? 

It is very likely that all three of the major credit bureaus have a credit file on you if you are over the age of eighteen and have ever obtained any sort of credit or financing.  You can order a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies -- Experian, TransUnion and Equifax  -- once every twelve months per federal law.  More information about free credit reports.
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Q. Is there a charge for my report? 

You are entitled to one copy of your credit report each year (see above).  But what if you have already received one copy within the last twelve months and you need another?  You still might be able to get a free copy if any of the following situations occur.  (1) There's no charge if a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance or employment, and you request your report within 60 days of receiving the notice of the action. The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the credit bureaus. (2) In addition, you're entitled to one free report a year if you're unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days, (3) you're on welfare, or (4) your report is inaccurate because of fraud or you're the victim of identity theft. Otherwise, a credit bureaus may charge you up to $9 for a copy of your report. 

Q. What can I do about inaccurate or incomplete information? 

Under federal law, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, both the credit bureaus and the information providers have responsibilities for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To protect all your rights under this law, contact both the credit bureaus and the information provider. First, tell the credit bureaus what information you believe is inaccurate, either by writing them (sample letters are provided) or disputing the information online at their websites.  Credit bureaus must reinvestigate any items you dispute on your credit report 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 credit bureaus, it must investigate, review all relevant information provided by the credit bureaus, and report the results to the credit bureaus. If the information provider finds the disputed information to be inaccurate, it must notify all nationwide credit bureaus so that they can correct this information in your file.

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. Second, tell the creditor or other information provider in writing that you dispute an item. 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 information is inaccurate - the information provider may not use it again

There has been an ongoing problem with both credit bureaus and the companies that report information to them not following through on disputes the way they are required to do under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  Click here for more information about the difficulties you're having disputing information on your credit report.
Q. Do I have a right to know what's in my report? 

Yes, if you ask for it. The credit bureaus must tell you everything in your report, including medical information, and in most cases, the sources of the information. The credit bureaus also must give you a list of everyone who has requested your report within the past year - two years for employment related requests.  Those who have accessed your credit report are listed under the "inquiries" section of the credit report
Q. What can I do if the CRA or information provider won't correct the information I dispute? 

A reinvestigation may not resolve your dispute with the credit bureaus. If that's the case, ask the credit bureaus to include your statement of the dispute in your file and in future reports. If you request, the credit bureaus also will provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of the old report in the recent past. There usually is a fee for this service.  If you tell the information provider that you dispute an item, a notice of your dispute must be included anytime the information provider reports the item to a credit bureaus.


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