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A credit report is simply a record of your personal financial transactions or credit history for the last 7-10 years. This report is used to decide whether to approve you for a line of credit such as an application for a loan, credit card, job, or housing.
What Information is Included in Your Credit Report?
Personal information. Compiled from credit applications you've filled out, this information normally includes your name, current and recent addresses, Social Security Number, date of birth, and current and previous employers.
Credit history. The bulk of your credit report consists of details about credit accounts that were opened in your name or that list you as an authorized user (such as a spouse's credit card). Account details, which are supplied by creditors with which you have an account, include the date the account was opened, the credit limit or amount of the loan, the payment terms, the balance, and a history that shows whether or not you've paid the account on time.
Credit Report Inquiries. Credit reporting agencies record an inquiry whenever your credit report is shown to another party, such as a lender, service provider, landlord, or insurer. Inquiries remain on your credit report for up to two years.
Public records. Matters of public record obtained from government sources such as courts of law -- including liens, bankruptcies, and overdue child support -- may appear on your credit report. Most public record information stays on your credit report for 7 years.
What is Not Included in Your Credit Report?
A credit report does not include information about your checking or savings accounts, bankruptcies that are more than 10 years old, charged-off or debts placed for collection that are more than seven years old, gender, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, medical history, or criminal records.
Who Can Look at Your Credit Report?
Anyone with what is considered a permissible purpose can look at your report. These companies, groups, and individuals include:
- Potential lenders
- Insurance companies
- Employers and potential employers (usually only with your written consent)
- Companies you allow to monitor your credit report for signs of identity theft
- Some groups considering your application for a government license or benefit
- A state or local child support enforcement agency
- Any government agency (although they may be allowed to view only certain portions)
- Someone who uses your credit report to provide a product or service you have requested
- Someone that has your written authorization to obtain your credit report
Accessing Your Credit Report
Credit reports should be checked at least once a year to ensure accuracy and prevent identity fraud. You may access one credit report for free from each of the major bureaus annually (for a total of three free credit reports per year). An easy website to use when retrieving your credit report is www.annualcreditreport.com. Reports may also be requested from one of the three major reporting agencies:
Information Service Center
PO Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
National Consumer Assistance Center
PO Box 949
Allen, TX 75013-0949
2 Baldwin Place
P.O Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022
Click here to view a sample credit report from Experian.