Credit Reporting Information You Should Know

Your credit report contains information about where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy.  A good credit rating is very important.

If you've ever applied for a credit card, a personal loan, or insurance, there's a file about you.  Companies that gather and sell this information are called Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs).

To find the CRA(s) that have your consumer report, search online under "credit" or "credit rating and reporting".  Since more than one CRA may have a file on you, contact each one until you have located all the agencies maintaining your file.

The most common CRAs are the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.  CRAs sell information to actual and potential creditors, employers, insurers, and other businesses in the form of a consumer credit report.

Businesses inspect your credit history when they evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, and even leases. They can use it when they choose to give or deny you credit or insurance.  Sometimes things happen that can cause credit problems: a temporary loss of income, an illness, even a computer error.  Resolving credit problems may take time and patience, but it doesn’t have to be an ordeal.

Your credit report can influence your purchasing power, as well as your ability to get a job, rent or buy an apartment or a house, and buy insurance.  When negative information in your report is accurate, only the passage of time can assure its removal.

A credit reporting company/CRA can report negative information for seven years and bankruptcy information for ten years.  Information about an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer.  There is a standard method for calculating the seven-year reporting period. Generally, the period runs from the date that the relevant event took place.

There is no time limit on reporting information about criminal convictions, information reported in response to your application for a job with an annual salary of more than $75,000, or information reported because you’ve applied for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance.

Anyone who takes action against you in response to a consumer credit report supplied by a CRA, such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment, must give you the name, address, and telephone number of the CRA that provided the report.  If you ask for it, the CRA must tell you everything in your report, including medical information, and in most cases, the sources of the information.  The CRA also must give you a list of everyone who has requested your report within the past year (two years for employment related requests).

There is no charge for a copy of your report 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. Otherwise, there could be a small charge (typically less than $10) for a copy of your report.