|Your credit report--a type of consumer report--contains information about where
you work and live and how you pay your bills. It also may show whether you've
been sued or arrested or have filed for bankruptcy. Companies called consumer
reporting agencies (CRAs) or credit bureaus compile and sell your credit report to
businesses. Because businesses use this information to evaluate your applications
for credit, insurance, employment, and other purposes allowed by the Fair Credit
Reporting Act (FCRA), it's important that the information in your report is complete
Some financial advisors suggest that you periodically review your credit report for
inaccuracies or omissions. This could be especially important if you're considering
making a major purchase, such as buying a home. Checking in advance on the
accuracy of information in your credit file could speed the credit-granting process.
Getting Your Credit Report
If you've been denied credit, insurance, or employment because of information
supplied by a CRA, the FCRA says the company you applied to must give you the
CRA's name, address, and telephone number. If you contact the agency for a copy
of your report within 60 days of receiving a denial notice, the report is free. In
addition, you're entitled to one free copy of your report a year if you certify in
writing that (1) you're unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days, (2)
you're on welfare, or (3) your report is inaccurate because of fraud. Otherwise, a
CRA may charge you up to $8.50 for a copy of your report.
If you simply want a copy of your report, call the CRAs listed in the Yellow Pages
under "credit" or "credit rating and reporting." Call each credit bureau listed since
more than one agency may have a file on you, some with different information.
The three major national credit bureaus are:
- Equifax, P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241; (800) 685-1111.
- Experian (formerly TRW), P.O. Box 2002, Allen, TX 75013; (888) EXPERIAN (397-3742).
- Trans Union, P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022; (800) 916-8800.
Under the FCRA, both the CRA and the organization that provided the information
to the CRA, such as a bank or credit card company, have responsibilities for
correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To protect all your
rights under the law, contact both the CRA and the information provider.
First, tell the CRA in writing what information you believe is inaccurate. Include
copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. In addition to
providing your complete name and address, your letter should clearly identify each
item in your report you dispute, state the facts and explain why you dispute the
information, and request deletion or correction. You may want to enclose a copy
of your report with the items in question circled. Send your letter by certified mail,
return receipt requested, so you can document what the CRA received. Keep
copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.
(Click on the hyperlink to view a sample letter.
Note that a new window will open.)
CRAs must reinvestigate the items in question--usually within 30 days--unless they
consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all relevant data you provide
about the dispute to the information provider. After the information provider
receives notice of a dispute from the CRA, it must investigate, review all relevant
information provided by the CRA, and report the results to the CRA. If the
information provider finds the disputed information to be inaccurate, it must notify
all nationwide CRAs so they can correct this information in your file. Disputed
information that cannot be verified must be deleted from your file.
- If your report contains erroneous information, the CRA must correct it.
- If an item is incomplete, the CRA must complete it. For example, if your
file showed that you were late making payments, but failed to show
that you were no longer delinquent, the CRA must show that you're current.
- If your file shows an account that belongs only to another person, the CRA
must delete it.