Understanding Your Credit Report

What you need to know

Report The higher your score, the lower your credit risk. Your credit score is not physically stored in the credit file. Rather, it is generated at the time a lender requests your credit report and is then included as part of the report. This measure is used by a lender to help determine whether a person qualifies for a particular credit card, loan, or service.

Most credit scores estimate the risk a company incurs by lending a person money or providing them with a service. Specifically, the credit score reflects the likelihood that the person will make payments on time in the next two to three years. Keep in mind your credit score is a fluid number that changes daily as information is added or revised in your credit report. There are many different credit scores used in the financial service industry. Your score may be different from lender to lender (or from car loan to mortgage loan); depending on the type of credit scoring model that was used.

Questions & Answers about…

Sections you will find on your personal credit report are:

  • Personal data - Includes information associated with your records that has been reported to the credit bureaus by your creditors and other sources. It may include name variations, your driver's license number, Social Security number variations, your date of birth, your spouse's name, your employer and information about your residences. As part of our fraud prevention program, a notice with additional information may appear in this section.
  • Credit information - Lists most of your credit accounts, the date when those accounts were opened, payment history, debt owed and any co-signers. Public record information - A compilation of public information gleaned from courthouses; this section includes bankruptcies, monetary judgments stemming from lost court cases, federal and state tax liens, and overdue child support payments.
  • Inquiry information - Contains a list of those individuals and organizations that have recently sought information from your credit report because you applied with them, or for other permissible purposes of the law. These might include lenders, insurers, employers and stores that want to increase the credit lines of customers who meet certain criteria. Certain inquiries generate pre-approved credit card offers. Some inquiries, such as for employment purposes, are considered "soft hits" and not displayed to normal creditors.
  • Consumer statement (optional) - You can contribute a statement addressing an issue on your report by submitting your request in writing to the three major Credit Bureaus.

Disputes and Fraud Alerts:

Send written disputes to:
  • Equifax Consumer Disputes
    P.O. Box 740256
    Atlanta, Georgia 30374
  • Experian Consumer Disputes
    P.O. Box 9555
    Allen, Texas 75013
  • TransUnion Consumer Disputes
    P.O. Box 34012
    Fullerton, California 92834
To contact the FTC which governs the three major credit bureaus:
  • Federal Trade Commission
    Consumer Response Center
    Room 130
    600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
    Washington, D.C. 20580
    www.ftc.gov/credit
To place a fraud alert:

You have the right to ask that nationwide consumer credit reporting companies place "fraud alerts" in your file to let potential creditors and others know that you may be a victim of identity theft. A fraud alert can make it more difficult for someone to get credit in your name because it tells creditors to follow certain procedures to protect you. It also may delay your ability to obtain credit. You may place a fraud alert in your file by calling just one of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies. As soon as that agency processes your fraud alert, it will notify the other two, which then also must place fraud alerts in your file.

An initial fraud alert stays in your file for at least 90 days. An extended alert stays in your file for seven years. To place either of these alerts, a consumer credit reporting company will require you to provide appropriate proof of your identity, which may include your Social Security number. If you ask for an extended alert, you will have to provide an identity theft report. An identity theft report includes a copy of a report you have filed with a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency. For more detailed information about the identity theft report, visit www.consumer.gov/idtheft.

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