Credit reports contain information about your bill payment history, loans, current debt, and other financial information. They show where you work and live and whether you've been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy.
Credit reports help lenders decide whether or not to extend you credit or approve a loan, and determine what interest rate they will charge you. Prospective employers, insurers, and rental property owners may also look at your credit report.
It's important to check your credit report regularly to ensure that your personal information and financial accounts are being accurately reported and that no fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name. If you find errors on your credit report, take steps to have them corrected.
Free Credit Reports
You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once every 12 months. You can request all three reports at once, or space them out throughout the year. Learn about other situations in which you can request a free credit report.
Annual Credit Report Request Service PO Box 105281 Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
If your request for a free credit report is denied:
Contact the credit reporting agency (CRA) directly to try and resolve the issue. The CRA should inform you of the reason they denied your request and explain what to do next. Often, you will only need to provide information that was missing or incorrect on your application for a free credit report.
A credit score is a number that rates your credit risk at one point in time. It can help creditors determine whether to give you credit, decide the terms you are offered, or the rate you will pay for the loan. Having a high score can benefit you in many ways, including making it easier for you to obtain a loan, rent an apartment, and lower your insurance rate.
The information in your credit report is used to calculate your credit score. A credit score is calculated based on your:
length of your credit history
applications for new credit accounts
types of credit accounts (mortgages, car loans, credit cards)
It's important to make sure your credit report is accurate, because it can affect the accuracy of a credit score. You can have multiple credit scores, created by different companies or lenders that use their own credit scoring system.
Your free annual credit report does not include your credit score, but it's available, often for a fee. You can get your credit score, from several sources, such as your credit card statement or buying it from one of the three major credit reporting agencies. When you buy your score, you often get information on how you can improve it.
Placing a credit freeze allows you to restrict access to your credit report. This is important after a data breach or identity theft when someone could use your personal information to apply for new credit accounts. Most creditors look at your credit report before opening a new account. But if you've frozen your credit report, creditors can't access it, and probably won't approve fraudulent applications.
You have the right to place or lift a credit freeze for free. You can place a freeze on your own credit files and on those of your children age 16 or younger.
Place a Credit Freeze
Contact each credit reporting agency to place a freeze on your credit report. Each agency accepts freeze requests online, by phone, or by postal mail.
Experian Online: Experian Freeze Center Phone: 1-888-397-3742 By mail, write to: Experian Security Freeze PO Box 9554 Allen, TX 75013
Equifax Online: Equifax Credit Report Services Phone: 1-800-685-1111 By mail, write to: Equifax Information Services LLC PO Box 105788 Atlanta, GA 30348-5788
TransUnion Online: TransUnion Credit Freezes Phone: 1-800-909-8872 By mail, write to: TransUnion LLC PO Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016
Innovis Online: Innovis Freeze Options Phone: 1-800-540-2505 By mail, write to: Innovis Consumer Assistance PO Box 26 Pittsburgh, PA 15230-0026
Your credit freeze will go into effect the next business day if you place it online or by phone. If you place the freeze by postal mail, it will be in effect three business days after the credit agency receives your request. A credit freeze does not expire. Unless you lift the credit freeze, it stays in effect.
Lift a Credit Freeze
If you want lenders and other companies to be able to access your credit files again, you will need to lift your credit freeze permanently or temporarily. Contact each credit reporting agency. Some require you to use a PIN or password to lift your credit freeze. You can lift your credit freeze as often as you need to, without penalties.
It takes one hour for a lift request to take effect if you place it online or by phone. It can take three business days if you request the lift by mail.
A credit reporting agency (CRA) is a company that collects information about where you live and work, how you pay your bills, whether or not you have been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy. All of this information is combined together in a credit report. A CRA will then sell your credit report to creditors, employers, insurers, and others. These companies will use these reports to make decisions about extending credit, jobs, and insurance policies to you.
You are entitled to order (every 12 months) a free copy of your credit report from each of the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) through AnnualCreditReport.com. This website is the only one that is government authorized to provide you with free copies of your credit report.
You can also contact the credit agencies directly if you need to dispute information in your report, place a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit file, or have other questions.
Negative information in a credit report can include public records--tax liens, judgments, bankruptcies--that provide insight into your financial status and obligations. A credit reporting company generally can report most negative information for seven years.
Information about a lawsuit or a judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. Bankruptcies can be kept on your report for up to 10 years, and unpaid tax liens for 15 years.
Fixing Errors in a Credit Report
Anyone who denies you credit, housing, insurance, or a job because of a credit report must give you the name, address, and telephone number of the credit reporting agency (CRA) that provided the report. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you have the right to request a free report within 60 days if a company denies you credit based on the report.
You can get your credit report fixed if it contains inaccurate or incomplete information:
Contact both the credit reporting agency and the company that provided the information to the CRA.
Tell the CRA, in writing, what information you believe is inaccurate. Keep a copy of all correspondence.
Some companies may promise to repair or fix your credit for an upfront fee--but there is no way to remove negative information in your credit report if it is accurate.
Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies in the U.S., announced a data breach that affects 143 million consumers. The hackers accessed Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers.
Equifax has launched a tool that will let you know if you were affected by the breach. Visit Equifax’s website dedicated to this breach to learn if you were impacted. You will need to provide your last name and the last six numbers of your Social Security number.
If you are impacted, Equifax offers you a free credit monitoring service, TrustedIDPremier. However, you won’t be able to enroll in it immediately. You will be given a date when you can return to the site to enroll. Equifax will not send you a reminder to enroll. Mark that date on your calendar, so you can start monitoring your credit as soon as possible.
If you detect suspicious activity on your credit report due to the breach, learn how to report it immediately.