Credit reports and credit scores govern our lives, from applying for jobs to trying to get financing for a loan, what your credit report says about you can make a difference. There are rules regarding our credit reports and how items are reported, how often you can check your report, and how to get wrongful items removed. Most of this is governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970 or the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003.
Credit Reporting Agencies
There are three main credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. When items are reported to your credit, they may be reported to one, two, or all three of these credit reporting agencies. Each company operates independently and all calculate your credit score based on their criteria and the items reported to their agency.
Getting A Credit Report
Once a year you are entitled to a free credit report from each of the reporting agencies. You can contact each agency directly or visit annualcreditreport.com to request your free copy. As a consumer, you are free to check your credit report when ever you wish, but you must pay for it outside of the one free report per year.
In 2003, the Fair and Accurate Transactions Act was passed which established the website annualcreditreport.com to make access to free credit reports more readily available to consumers.
There are some exceptions that allow consumers to check their report for free more then once per year. These exceptions include if a person has had an adverse action against them, has been a victim of identity theft, is on public assistance, or is unemployed but looking for work within 60 days.
If you notice a wrongful item on your credit report, you are allowed to dispute that item. The credit agency is required to look into the dispute within 30 days, and the company who reported the item also has 30 days to look into it. If the item is determined to be wrongful, it must be removed from your credit report and the company reporting the item can no longer report that item.
You may also request a copy of your credit report if you have been denied credit or employment based on your credit report. This would be an instance where you are entitled to a free report.
Who Else Can View Your Credit Report
Credit reports are considered private information. Only those with a permissible purpose may view your credit report. Those considered to have a permissible purpose are lenders, collection agencies, and insurers. Some employers are are allowed to view your credit report before offering employment.
It’s a good idea to at least check your credit report once per year with your free annual credit report option. Knowing what is on your report can help you avoid an adverse credit score or alert you to identity theft. Since so much of our lives depend on our credit and credit score, it only makes sense to know what your credit report says about you.