If you are applying for a credit card, mortgage, car or personal loan, you should be familiar with the information included in your credit report. You are issued a number, known as a FICO score, which is calculated based on your previous payment history, number of debts with a balance, recent credit inquiries, and balance to available credit ratio.
Many consumers are aware that they can obtain a credit report, for a fee, from the three major credit reporting agencies. These include TransUnion, Experian and Equifax and they provide your credit report to loan officers, credit card companies, financial institutions and anyone whom you give permission to obtain a copy of your credit file. While many consumers know that credit reports can be obtained for a fee, many do not know that everyone is entitled to a free copy of their credit report from each of the 3 credit bureaus each year. Once every 12 months, you can visit http://www.AnnualCreditReport.com and gain instant online access to your free credit report.
When looking at a copy of your credit report, you will be able to view payment histories as submitted by each of your creditors, current and previous addresses along with any information included on the public record. This may include civil judgments, bankruptcy or foreclosures, etc. If any of the information contained in your credit file is incorrect, you have the right to dispute that information directly with the credit bureau. At the time a dispute is submitted, the credit reporting agency will investigate and correct any errors that are made.
Additionally, if you are turned down for credit at any time, the creditor must provide you with a written reason for the decline. At that time, you may request a free copy of your credit report from the agency that provided the information to the creditor. By sending a copy of the denial letter to the credit reporting agency, they are then required to provide you with a copy of their entire file relating to you and your credit history.
It is recommended that consumers check their credit file every 6 months to ensure that information is accurate and to prevent or detect identity theft. If you notice an invalid address or credit line that you never applied for, this is an indication of possible identity theft and should be dealt with immediately by calling the credit bureau and having a fraud alert placed on your file. An informed consumer is a happy one.