Credit reports contain information about your bill payment history, loans, current debt, and other financial information. They show where you work and live and whether you’ve been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy.
Credit reports help lenders decide whether or not to extend you credit or approve a loan, and determine what interest rate they will charge you. Prospective employers, insurers, and rental property owners may also look at your credit report.
It’s important to check your credit report regularly to ensure that your personal information and financial accounts are being accurately reported and that no fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name. If you find errors on your credit report, take steps to have them corrected.
Free Credit Reports
You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once every 12 months. You can request all three reports at once, or space them out throughout the year. Learn about other situations in which you can request a free credit report.
Credit Reporting Agencies
A credit reporting agency (CRA) is a company that collects information about where you live and work, how you pay your bills, whether or not you have been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy. All of this information is combined together in a credit report. A CRA will then sell your credit report to creditors, employers, insurers, and others. These companies will use these reports to make decisions about extending credit, jobs, and insurance policies to you.
You are entitled to order (every 12 months) a free copy of your credit report from each of the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) through AnnualCreditReport.com. This website is the only one that is government authorized to provide you with free copies of your credit report.
You can also contact the credit agencies directly if you need to dispute information in your report, place a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit file, or have other questions.
File a Complaint
Credit reporting agencies are not operated by the government, but you can still file a complaint about them to the federal government. Some reasons for filing a complaint include:
- dissatisfaction with the outcome of a dispute with a CRA
- the CRA doesn’t respond to your dispute request
- credit report was used improperly
- inability to get a copy of a credit report or score
- problems with credit monitoring or identify protection services.
File a complaint about a credit reporting agency to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau online or by phone at 1-855-411-2372.
Negative Information in a Credit Report
Negative information in a credit report can include public records–tax liens, judgments, bankruptcies–that provide insight into your financial status and obligations. A credit reporting company generally can report most negative information for seven years.
Information about a lawsuit or a judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. Bankruptcies can be kept on your report for up to 10 years, and unpaid tax liens for 15 years.
Fixing Errors in a Credit Report
Anyone who denies you credit, housing, insurance, or a job because of a credit report must give you the name, address, and telephone number of the credit reporting agency (CRA) that provided the report. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you have the right to request a free report within 60 days if a company denies you credit based on the report.
You can get your credit report fixed if it contains inaccurate or incomplete information: