A credit report is a compilation of information about your financial history by a consumer reporting agency, also known as a credit bureau. For identification purposes, the report usually contains your date of birth, social security number, home address, and employer. Credit reports list your credit accounts including home mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, student loans, and other lending activity. These reports indicate the amount of the loan or credit limit, whether you paid on time or paid late, and if you have had any defaults including repossessions and foreclosures, tax liens, court judgments, and accounts assigned to collection agencies. There is no legal way to remove accurate negative information from your credit report except over time. Most negative information stays on your credit report for 7 years from the delinquency date. Bankruptcies (Chapter 7 and 11) remain on credit reports for 10 years.
Who Uses Credit Reports
Credit reports may be used by lenders and creditors to decide whether to grant you credit, insurance companies to decide whether to provide you insurance coverage, landlords to decide whether to rent you an apartment, prospective or current employers, and companies who mail you unsolicited credit offers known as inquiries. Employers cannot review your credit report without your written consent.
Reviewing Your Credit Report
You should review your credit report before applying for a substantial loan. For example, if you are thinking about buying a house, obtain a copy of your credit report now and correct any errors before applying for a mortgage. Your mortgage loan might be denied if your credit report contains errors. The errors might include someone else’s credit (similar name), an entry that was never updated or should be removed, or a bill you challenge. Correcting your report early can save you time and trouble. You will be required to provide information identifying yourself before you can obtain a copy of your credit report in order to protect your privacy.
You may order one free credit report per year from each credit bureau. You will be charged for additional copies during the same year and other features such as credit scores. You may order your free credit reports at www.annualcreditreport.com or by writing to Annual Credit Report Request Service, PO Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. In addition, the credit bureau must notify you once a year if negative information such as late payments is added to your credit report or if a large number of inquiries have been made. This alerts you that you may want to review your credit report. Federal law requires credit bureaus to provide a free copy of your credit report within 60 days upon your request if information from that report was used to deny you credit.
If you discover an error on your credit report, write to the credit bureau and explain why the entry is incorrect. Attach copies of canceled checks, statements showing payment in full, and other proof. If the error is not your credit, you may want to send a copy of your driver’s license, social security card, or other identifying information. The credit bureau must investigate your claim within 30 to 45 days, usually by contacting the creditor who reported the information, and then notify you that they have corrected your report or believe the entry is correct. If the credit bureau believes the entry is correct, you may file a 100-word written explanation which will appear on your credit report with the entry you are challenging. This is most common where you feel you have a valid reason for not paying a bill due to poor quality or service.
Contacting the Credit Bureaus
To contact one or all of the 3 major credit bureaus directly, use the information below. There may also be local credit bureaus in your area listed in the yellow pages of your telephone book under “Credit Bureaus.”
Equifax Credit Information Services
P. O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
Experian (formerly TRW)
P. O. Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 390
Springfield, PA 19064
Opting Out of Unsolicited Inquiries
An inquiry means that someone looked at your credit report. This could be a creditor you have asked for a loan, or an unsolicited offer of credit such as those you may receive in the mail for credit cards - also known as prescreening. Creditors may view numerous inquiries as negative since they could mean that you are overextending yourself. If you do not want to receive unsolicited credit offers based on your credit report, contact the credit bureaus individually or call (888) 567-8688 (toll free) to remove your name from the 3 major credit bureaus with one call.
If you have problems with a credit bureau, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission – the federal agency which enforces the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. As there is no Colorado-state agency with authority to enforce Colorado’s Consumer Credit Reporting Act, you may want to contact a private attorney for help.