5 Facts You Should Know About Your Credit Report

Fact 1

Under the law, everyone is entitled to a free annual report, and in certain situations, you are also entitled to a free report under federal law. You’re entitled to a free report if a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment, and you ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action.

The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the credit reporting company. You’re also entitled to one free report a year if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; if you’re on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft. Otherwise, a credit reporting company may charge you a reasonable amount for another copy of your report within a 12-month period.

Fact 2

 The credit agency must correct inaccuracies or incomplete information — in your credit report

Under the FCRA, both the credit report­ing company and the information provider (that is, the person, company, or organization that provides information about you to a consumer reporting company) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To take full advantage of your rights under this law, contact the credit reporting company and the information provider.

1. Tell the credit reporting company, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate.

Credit reporting companies must investigate the items in question — usually within 30 days — unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the credit reporting company, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the credit reporting company. If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide credit reporting companies so they can correct the information in your file.

When the investigation is complete, the credit reporting company must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. (This free report does not count as your annual free report.) If an item is changed or deleted, the credit reporting company cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it is accurate and complete. The credit reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider.

2. Tell the creditor or other information provider in writing that you dispute an item. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider reports the item to a credit reporting company, it must include a notice of your dispute. And if you are correct — that is, if the information is found to be inaccurate — the information provider may not report it again.

Fact 3

A credit reporting company can report most accurate negative information for seven years and bankruptcy information for 10 years.

There is no time limit on reporting information about crimi­nal convictions; information reported in response to your application for a job that pays more than $75,000 a year, and information reported because you’ve applied for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance. Information about a lawsuit or an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, which­ever is longer.

Fact 4

Creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use the information in your report to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, em­ployment, or renting a home are among those that have a legal right to access your report.

Fact 5

Your employer can get a copy of your credit report only if you agree. A credit reporting company may not provide information about you to your employer, or to a prospective employer, without your written consent.

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