Credit Report Basics & Your Rights

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Credit reports can be confusing. Understanding how to read your credit report and knowing your rights is essential to protecting yourself and your credit.

Credit Report Basics

  • A credit report is comprised of your credit card accounts, loans, your payment history, and balances. It includes identifying information such as your name, SSN, DOB, and address. 
  • Your credit score is simply an indicator of how likely you are to pay your bills on time. It factors in your history of paying your bills and other credit-related behaviors.
  • To ensure there are no errors, you should regularly review your credit report.
  • The main credit bureaus in the United States are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. These companies collect and assemble your information. 

Your Rights

The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to see your own credit information and the opportunity to dispute and correct errors. It also prescribes how the information can be used and who can see it. It is designed to protect consumers and their information.

Your rights under the FCRA are listed below. There are two types of reports: consumer reports and investigative consumer reports. The investigative reports are more personal in nature and include character, style of living, and interviews with people who know you personally. The FCRA requires that you be notified when this type of report is requested.

  • The right to your own information. You can request a copy of your credit report and should regularly check for errors.
  • The right to know who else has looked at your credit report.
  • The right to a free credit report after a rejection by an employer or lender due to information found in your credit report. You are eligible for one free credit report on a yearly basis.
  • The right to accurate information. If you have an error or discrepancy of some kind on your report, you should notify the credit bureau and they are responsible for correcting the error.
  • The right to privacy. This information isn’t available to anyone who asks for it.  It must be a lender, employer, bank, etc.  In other words, it has to be a reasonable, valid request.

Other FCRA Information

In addition to the protections listed above, consumers are protected from reports that give outdated negative information. Your consent is required before your information is given to employers.  If the provisions of the FCRA has been violated in regards to your information, you have the right to sue for damages.  Overall, The best way to protect yourself and your credit report is by understanding the way the FCRA works.  Remember, knowledge is power.

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