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Credit Reporting Agencies
and Your Consumer Rights

Consumer credit reporting agencies (CRAs) collect credit information on you from banks, department stores, credit card companies, and other types of financial institutions that may extend you credit.

Up until a few years ago, it was a mystery as to what your credit rating was because the credit bureaus who keep track of borrowers wouldn't tell the borrowers anything.

But several laws have changed all that, and the bureaus must send you your credit history if you request it. Should you have been denied credit based on their record, they must send you a duplicate of the record free of charge, if you request it within 30 days of the credit denial. If you haven't been denied credit but simply wish to know precisely what your file says, the amended Fair Credit Reporting Act permits consumers to request a free copy of their credit report once every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (i.e., Equifax, Experian, Trans Union).

Credit Scores

To find out about your credit score, what it is and how it affects you:

Credit reporting agencies make money selling the information they have in their databank to lending institutions, and others, including information about your credit profile.

Because of this, it is only prudent that you:

  • exercise your legal rights as a consumer
  • know what is in your credit file
  • make sure they are accurate
  • challenge it and have it corrected when necessary.

Consumer credit reporting agencies are required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act to tell you the contents of your file.

The reasons to contact a Credit Reporting Agency:

  • IF DECLINED FOR A LOAN, call the lender who is required by the FCRA to give you the name, address and phone number of the credit reporting agency it used in evaluating your loan application
  • IF YOUR REPORT CONTAINS INACCURATE INFORMATION, you may challenge the inclusion of it in your file
  • IF A LENDER HAS MADE AN ERROR, point it out to the lender and request that corrected information be sent to the credit reporting agency.
  • IF YOU'RE JUST CURIOUS, You can order a free credit report here:

On the Internet: www.annualcreditreport.com

On the phone: call 1-877-322-8228

By mail, complete the credit report request form: Annual Credit Report Request Form
Request form help file (pdf files)

and mail to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

Do not contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually. Information is provided below on the process of fixing your credit report. However, if you do need information about the specific national agencies, you will find them listed at the bottom of this page.

Fixing Credit Reports

If your credit report contains inaccurate information, or the report shows accounts that you never applied for, here is information on how to get it removed:

Bankruptcy and Negative Information

A consumer reporting company can report most accurate negative information for seven years and bankruptcy information for ten years. For more information on this subject:

Credit Reports and Divorce

If you had a joint account with your spouse, you are both responsible for the debt even if you are divorced. You are also responsible if you have cosigned a loan. For more detailed information on this subject see:

THE THREE MAJOR NATIONAL CREDIT REPORTING AGENCIES:

Equifax (www.equifax.com)
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
1-800-685-1111

Experian (www.experian.com)
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013-0949
1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)

Trans Union (www.transunion.com)
P.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022
1-800-916-8800

In addition to the national agencies, there are a variety of local credit reporting agencies. Check your telephone directory under headings such as "Credit Reporting Agencies" for names of similar companies in your area.


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