About Credit Reports
Credit reports are also called credit records, a person’s “credit profile,” and consumer credit files. It’s important for you to know who collects the information in your files and what is included in them.
It will also help for you to know how to read your credit report. The information contained within your report can open doors of opportunity for you. It can just as quickly shut them too.
Within a short time you will be able to have negative items removed while adding good credit factors. You can control what others see when they get your credit record. Your credit history can be managed to help you reach your financial and personal credit goals.
What Is A Credit Report?
Personal consumer credit reports are different than business credit profiles. On this website we offer help for fixing consumer credit problems so we don’t discuss business credit reports here.
The report is compiled from a variety of data sources. Most of the data relates to your consumer behavior. This means it looks at your finances, your shopping habits and information about your payments. It reveals if you make payments on time, and it shows patterns for how you spend your money as a consumer.
Credit reports are profiles of you. They display information about all of your consumer credit lines:
- Your mortgages.
- Your car loans.
- Student loans.
- Credit cards and how you like to use them…
They reveal more than just details about your account balances and amounts you owe. Most credit reports also include:
- Court judgments.
- Tax liens filed against you.
- Creditor collection activity.
- Bankruptcies (reported for 10 years).
Credit reporting agencies add other personal information to your profile such as your addresses, jobs you’ve held and names you’ve used over the years. They report how many times you’ve recently applied for credit and who has inquired about your credit history.
How Do Credit Reporting Agencies Find Information About You?
Credit depositories find information about you from obvious places such as your banks, credit accounts and public records. It also comes from obscure sources such as magazine subscriptions.
Whenever your personal information is requested you should assume it will end up being reported to the credit bureaus. This includes your name, social security number, phone and address.
Consumer information is made available across a network of companies collecting this kind of data. They are in the “data mining” business. Companies that provide information for credit reports sweep these networks, harvesting information from them. Then they sell it to credit reporting companies.
It’s a never-ending cycle of updates to your personal history and providing your credit profile to whoever submits a legal request for it.
What You Won’t See In Your Credit Profile
The typical consumer credit report is not the kind of report used for investigative purposes such as the background checks used by attorneys when preparing a legal case.
Federal and state laws place constraints on the length of time information can remain in your file. These laws also limit the types of information allowed to go into credit reports.
This includes anything that can identify your religion, ethnicity, national origin, family status and sexual orientation.
Categories covered in laws defining federally protected classes are prohibited.
Credit Reports Are Not Credit Scores
A personal credit history is often confused with a person’s credit score. You need to have a good handle on both, however they are not the same. The information that goes into your credit reports affect your scores.
People are surprised to learn that when you order your credit report it doesn’t always include your score. We think credit bureaus should always provide you with them both at the same time.
Credit reporting companies are not public or governmental agencies. They are businesses that sell you credit products at retail prices. They want to maximize profits by making you buy your scores and reports separately.
If you purchase your credit score (recommended if you are entering into a financial transaction or any time your scores are considered for approval), then you are likely to require your FICO credit score. There are others such as VantageScore that came into use in 2006. However, FICO is used by most creditors and others for evaluating your profile.
You should also know that by law every American is entitled to receive free credit reports from the credit bureaus. You can find instructions and recommendations for requesting your free credit report here. The credit bureau’s free credit reports don’t include your credit scores so you can request your FICO score at myFICO.com.
How Can You Get Your Credit Report?
Most credit reporting companies allow consumers internet access to credit records. You can find information on how to get an online credit report and then plan how to fix your credit profile.
Some make it easy for you with credit records on the web. One company even provides you with your credit score free. You can also request your credit report in person or by mail.
Getting the report by walking into the credit bureau office lets you interact with their employees and ask questions. You can find contact information such as phone numbers and addresses in our resources pages.
Correcting Mistakes in Credit Reports
You are legally entitled to correct any errors and inaccurate information being reported about you. In fact, the credit bureaus encourage people to obtain their consumer profile periodically and check it for such mistakes. We offer more detailed explanations for how to go about this. We also recommend a few selected guides that have checklists and step-by-step explanations that help you easily fix your credit report.
This way, you can remove damaging information that can lower credit scores while at the same time you can add items that improve your credit profile and help your scores.
Here is where you can find specific web pages at the major credit bureaus for learning more about how to correct credit report mistakes online: