Abby's Guide to Free Credit Reports
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What's in my credit report? (general)

Since the credit report is a critical part of your financial picture, it is important that it be accurate so you can obtain loans when you need them, at the best possible rate. Here is what is in the report.

Personal Identification Information

Quite a lot of personal information is on this report from the more obvious social security number, current address and phone, and birth date to the less apparent employers, both past and present. If you are married your spouse's name is most likely included as well.

Your Financial History

The report will list the details of your bill paying past including dates, amounts lent and repaid, monthly payments, and any other specifics of transactions with banks, stores, finance companies and other concerns that may have lent you money. If you were late in paying your mortgage or missed it altogether, this is where it shows up.

Your Public Records

If you have had any liens from the IRS, judgments against you in court, or if you have filed bankruptcy, it will be indicated in your credit report.

Interested Parties

Any company that anticipates offering you credit and has accessed your credit report, is listed here as well as anyone who has authorization to look at your report and taken advantage of that permission. Also listed are companies that want to extend you credit but want to make sure you meet their minimum criteria. Even though they don't actually get your credit report, they do get your name and address. That's how all those credit card and insurance companies can send you those "pre-approved" credit offerings.

A lender who sees a number of recent requests for your credit report from credit card companies may assume you have applied for a lot of credit recently and therefore turn you down, even though the assumption may not be valid. Each lender has guidelines as to what "excessive inquiries" over a period of time means specifically. It may also be true that you have given your name and address to a retailer or car dealer for instance, but not officially applied for credit. However, the merchant then requests your credit report to get a better idea of what products you might be interested in according to your buying history. Then an actual lender who sees that there were inquiries from three or four retailers but no credit extended, might assume that you were turned down for these loans or credit cards. Therefore, do not give your name and address to a retailer unless you are ready to apply for credit.

Disputed Information

If you have accessed your report and find incorrect information, you may be able to make a statement correcting the report's information.

If you request your credit report, you will get all of the above information. If you have contacted a business then they also have access to this data.

What you won't find in the report? Your bank account information, yearly income, race or religion.

Since you did not write your credit report yourself, how do they get all this information? Anytime you apply for credit, you fill out a form with extensive information. The company extending you the credit contacts a credit reporting agency, otherwise known as a CRA, requesting your credit report. If you are approved for credit, then all that information you have provided is sent on to the CRA. As you pay back the loan, that data is sent along as well. Every month all your credit information from multiple sources is reported to the CRA.

There are thousands of small credit bureaus around the country that gather and report your credit activity to any or all of the big three national credit bureaus.

Some of the local credit agencies may report your information to one, two or all three of these agencies, so the credit history on a report from Experian may not match what is reported to TransUnion. If you are checking your credit history, it would be a good idea to check all three companies.

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