WHAT IS A CREDIT REPORT?

A credit report is a report of information maintained by the credit bureaus. The report will have information such as your name, address, social security number, and credit payment history. Creditors may report positive or negative credit payment information to the credit bureaus. Utilities, such as the telephone and power companies, may also report your payment history. Creditors may review this information any time you apply for a loan or a credit card, to use in determining whether they will lend you money or extend you credit.

WHAT INFORMATION APPEARS ON YOUR CREDIT REPORT?

Personal Information: Names, present and past addresses, social security number, birth date, employer, and merchant trade lines. These include all regular credit lines such as department store cards, auto loans, mortgages, and credit cards. If there is any history of late payment, or if the trade line was included in bankruptcy, charged off, or put into repossession, the listing will be considered negative by all creditors.

 

Inquiries: Every time a potential creditor looks at your credit file, a credit inquiry appears on at least one of your credit bureau reports. If the number of inquiries are few over the last two years, then there may be no negative effect on your creditworthiness. However, if there are many recent inquiries showing on your credit report, creditors may become nervous and deny you credit.

Collection Accounts: When an account is referred to collections because of delinquency or because of a bad check, this appears on the credit report as a collection account. Collection accounts can appear as paid or unpaid accounts. Any type of collection account, whether paid or not, is considered HIGHLY negative by all creditors.

WHAT ARE SOME MISCONCEPTIONS ?

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Divorce

Divorce will dissolve all of your credit responsibilities.

Truth - The effect on your credit depends on your divorce settlement and history of sharing credit accounts with your spouse. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act states that married couples have the right to request separate credit reports and histories, even for joint accounts. If an account is listed under only one spouse’s name, the other spouse has the right to rely on that credit history.

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Money

Making a lot of money will improve your credit report and scores. 

 

Truth - Income is not used for calculating your credit score. It is how you spend your money in terms of using credit to do so that establishes and determines your credit score.

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Paying Off Accounts

Paying off collections, tax liens and late payments will remove them from your credit report.

 

Truth - Resolving these items is no guarantee that they will be removed from your credit report.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do negative items stay on your credit report?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that most negative credit items be deleted from your credit bureau file within no more than seven years, except for bankruptcy, which is typically reported for up to ten years.  The creditor or the credit bureau can choose to have the negative credit information deleted whenever they want. There is no legal requirement to report any information to the credit bureaus unless they choose to do so. Inquiries may remain on the credit report for up to two years.

Who can look at my credit report?

Nowadays credit reports are used more often to measure your credit worthiness. Potential creditors will always review at least one of your credit reports before granting you credit. Many employers are also beginning to check credit reports and scores before they consider an individual for a position. In most cases however, they cannot legally do so without your permission. If you rent, you may have already been through a credit check to determine your worthiness as a renter. Unfortunately however, your permission is not required when inquiries are made as part of a pre-approved credit offer.

Can I see my credit report?

You are entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three credit bureaus. You may place your order online at annualcreditreport.com, the only authorized website for free credit reports.

What is a charge off?

When you become delinquent on an account, the creditor will probably charge it off. This means that they have written the debt off as a loss. This does not mean that they have given up collecting on the debt. The creditor will then likely sell the debt or send it to collections for a collection agency to collect monies from you.

Which credit bureaus exist?

Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are a credit reporting agencies that are in business of buying and selling credit information and they play no part in the credit repair process unless they are requested to do so. They are not a government agency, they also do not act as a watchdog and contact you about possible problems with your credit. It’s also very important to know that they are responsive, not proactive companies. You have to go to them to repair any false charges or errors with your information. Until you do, they assume all is well with your credit report. Every time you ask Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion to look into problems with your credit report (including disputing information or asking that an item is removed), it costs them money. From this, one can assume that they will sometimes purposely take measures to avoid acting on your behalf.

Can negative or harmful items be removed from your credit report?

Negative credit items are deleted every day. The United States Congress has enacted a set of laws that protect the consumer and provide that only 100% verifiable, 100% accurate information appear on a person’s credit report. This same law details the rules for how negative information must be investigated and treated should it be challenged. 

Can items that were removed appear back on your credit?

Credit bureaus will often temporarily delete a negative item if they haven’t heard from the creditor after 30 days. If the creditor reports late and then verifies the negative listing, the credit bureau will put the negative item on the credit report. This is known as a “soft delete.” Usually, the creditor fails to respond and the negative listing is permanently deleted. If the creditor verifies the item before the 30 days or after, the account may still be challenged at a future time. Any type of negative item can be removed from a credit report, assuming the right circumstances exist. Bankruptcies are more difficult to remove because of the systems that the credit bureaus use. However, they are removable.

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Important Credit Laws You Need to Know

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The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to review and correct your credit reports. It also requires reporting agencies to maintain complete and accurate information but this does not mean they always do.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have a right to:

Access to Your Credit Report – The act requires credit reporting agencies to provide you with any information in your credit file upon request once a year. You have a right to a free copy of your credit report within 15 days of your request.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA)

This act prohibits creditors from discriminating against credit applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, marital status or age, because an applicant receives income from a public assistance program, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act states that all consumers are given an equal chance to obtain credit and you cannot be denied credit because of the examples written above.

This is a federal law that limits the behavior and actions of third-party debt collectors who are attempting to collect debts on behalf of another person. This Act states that the collectors of loans cannot use unfair or deceptive practices including anonymous phone calls, making threats, using obscene language, making a debt public, or carrying out any kind of harassing behavior.

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA)

This is a federal law enacted to protect consumers from unfair billing practices, like unauthorized charges, charges for unaccepted or undelivered goods and services and other disputed charges. The law applies to revolving charge accounts and open-end credit accounts, such as credit cards. During the time an item on a credit report is being disputed, creditors cannot report an associated account as delinquent. This act also requires the prompt correction of any errors on open-ended accounts.

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