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Credit Report 101: Part 2

In part one, we started talking about credit reports including what is on a credit report, why they are important and when you should review your report. Now let’s find out where the information comes from and who can see these reports. And if you read part one, you also know that one in five credit reports has an error and we have steps you can take to get those corrected.

Where do credit reporting agencies get their information?

The three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – get information from your creditors, such as a financial institution, credit card issuer, or finance company. It’s important to note that each credit reporting agency gets its information from different sources, so the information may be different across each agency. Check each of the agencies to make sure they are all accurate.

Who can see my credit report?

Credit reports contain sensitive personal information, so access is limited. Credit reports are only available to: lenders from whom you are seeking credit, lenders that have granted you credit, telephone, cell phone and utility companies that may provide you services. Your employer or perspective employer may access it, but only if you agree. Insurance companies that have issued or may issue a policy for you can check your credit, along with government agencies reviewing your financial status for government benefits, and anyone else with a legitimate business need for the information, such as a potential landlord or financial institution. Credit agencies also furnish reports if required by court order or federal grand jury subpoenas. Upon your written request, agencies will also issue your report to a third party.

What if I find a mistake?

First, contact the credit reporting agency, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. Include copies, keep your originals, of documents that support your position. Here is a sample letter for disputing errors from the FTC: The credit agency must investigate the items in question, usually within 30 days, unless they consider it frivolous or irrelevant. Once the investigation is complete, they must give you the results in writing and free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. If you ask, the credit reporting agency must send notices of any corrections to anyone who received your report in the past six months.

Next you should contact your creditor or other information provider, that you dispute an item. Be sure to include copies of documents that support your dispute. If the provider reports the item to a credit reporting agency, it must include a notice of your dispute. If you are correct, if the information is found to be inaccurate, the creditor or information provider may not report it again.

If you are unable to get the mistake fixed, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You can find more information here:

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