ONE: CONUMER REPORTING AGENCIES


If you've ever applied for a credit card, a personal loan, or insurance, there's a file about you. This file contains information on where you work and live, how you pay your bills, and whether you've been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy.

Companies that gather and sell this information are called Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs). The most common type of CRA is the credit bureau. The information CRAs sell about you to creditors, employers, insurers, and other businesses is called a consumer report.

 

THE FAIR CREDIT REPORTING ACT (FCRA)

The FCRA is designed to promote accuracy and ensure the privacy of information used in consumer reports. Recent amendments to the Act expand your rights and place additional requirements on CRAs. Businesses that supply information about you to CRAs and those that use consumer reports also have new responsibilities under the law.

Here are some questions consumers commonly ask about consumer reports and CRAs-and the answers.

Q. How do I find the CRA that has my report?

A. Contact the CRAs listed in the Yellow Pages under "credit" or "credit rating and reporting." Because more than one CRA may have a file on you, call each until you have located all the agencies maintaining your file.

The three major credit bureaus are:

Equifax
1- 800-685-1111 Experian
1-888-EXPERIAN
(397-3742) Trans Union
1-800-916-8800

In addition, anyone who takes action against you in response to a report supplied by a CRA-such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment-must give you the name, address, and telephone number of the CRA that provided the report.

Q. Do I have a right to know what's in my report?

A. Yes, if you ask for it. The CRA must tell you everything in your report, including medical information, and in most cases, the sources of the information. The CRA also must give you a list of everyone who has requested your report within the past two years for employment related requests.

Q. Is there a charge for my report?

A. Sometimes. There's no charge if a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance or employment, and you request your report within 60 days of receiving the notice of the action. The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the CRA. In addition, you're entitled to one free report a year if you certify in writing that (1) you're unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days, (2) you're on welfare, or (3) your report is inaccurate because of fraud. Otherwise, a CRA may charge you up to $9.00 for a copy of your report.
Even if you have not been denied credit, you may want to find out what information is in your credit report.

Some financial advisors suggest that you review your credit report periodically for inaccuracies or omissions. This could be especially important if you're considering a major purchase, such as buying a home or a car.

Checking in advance on the accuracy of the information in your credit report could speed the credit-granting process.

Q. What type of information do credit bureaus collect and sell?

A. Credit bureaus collect and sell four basic types of information.


IDENTIFICATION AND EMPLOYMENT INFORMATION

Your name, birth date, Social Security number, employer, and spouse's name are routinely noted. The CRA also may provide information about your employment history, home ownership, income, and previous address, if a creditor requests this type of information.



PAYMENT HISTORY

Your accounts with different creditors are listed, showing how much credit has been extended and whether you've paid on time. Related events, such as referral of an overdue account to a collection agency, may also be noted.


INQUIRIES

CRAs must maintain a record of all creditors who have asked for your credit history within the past year, and a record of those persons or businesses requesting your credit history for employment purposes for the past two years.



PUBLIC RECORD INFORMATION

Events that are a matter of public record, such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, or tax liens, may appear in your report.


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