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Your Credit History Is Crucial

Everyone has a credit history, but too many people aren't aware how that history is compiled, how it is used, and how to make sure it's accurate! To help, we've compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions about Credit and Credit Reports.

What is a credit report?

A credit report is a detailed account of your individual credit history, compiled by a credit reporting agency. A credit report is used by your potential creditors to evaluate your ability and willingness to repay debt. Based on that report, then, a potential creditor (for instance, a bank from which you may be requesting a loan or other credit product) will determine whether or not to grant you credit, how much to grant, and what kind of finance charge to assess.

Where does the information in my credit report come from?

Banks, department stores, the IRS, the court system, doctors, hospitals, utilities, phone companies and other companies all submit payment information directly to credit reporting agencies. Any business with whom you have "credit" will most likely submit information about you.

Who maintains my credit report?

Credit reports are maintained by private agencies that operate under rules set by the Federal Government in the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The primary credit reporting companies are Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.

What information is included in my credit report?

Your credit report contains basic personal information, such as your full name, names you may have used in the past, your age or date of birth, Social Security number, address, and employment information. It will also list previous addresses and employers. Your credit report will contain any public records such as collections, liens, judgments, or bankruptcies.

Your report will list all open accounts or charge cards which must be paid in full each month; revolving accounts or credit cards, and installment loans. Each account will have a rating which shows whether it is paid to date or past due, as well as a 24-month history of late payments. Accounts that have been closed by creditors will also be noted.

How can I get a copy of my credit report?

To obtain a copy of your credit report, you can visit any of the three reporting companies:

Equifax: 1-800-685-1111
TransUnion: 1-800-836-8761
Experian: 1-888-397-3742

There are also Web sites that offer free access to your credit reports, and companies that charge for the same service. Slavie notes these but makes no recommendations as to their use.

Whom do I contact if there are errors on my credit report?

If you've noticed inaccuracies on your credit report, you will need to contact the company that provided the report and request the errors be corrected.

Why should I monitor my credit history?

Your credit history may change frequently. Monitoring your credit history on a regular basis will alert you to potential fraudulent activity. Bad credit may affect your ability to qualify for loans.

Related pages on this topic:

Security and Privacy
Identity Theft
About Credit Reports
About "Phishing"
News from the FTC
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