Your credit report is a record of all open accounts you have as well as your payment history with each of them. It also includes loans you've applied for and your criminal record, if you have one. If you file for bankruptcy, it will appear on your credit report. Three national companies keep these records, and federal law limits what they can do with the information they gather about you.
Who Can Request Your Credit Report?
Credit reporting companies accumulate information about you and then sell this information to certain individuals and businesses. Your neighbor can't buy your credit report, but any business to which you've applied for credit can do so. Insurance companies can buy your report if you apply for a policy. Government agencies can also access this information. Requests are limited to those who have a legitimate business-related reason for seeing it. Your employer or prospective employer can get a copy of your report but only if you authorize it in writing.
You Can See Your Credit Report
Federal law gives you the right to receive a free copy of your own credit report once a year. You can also get a free copy if you're a victim of identity theft or if someone turns you down for a loan or some other opportunity based on the report.
You Can Dispute Your Credit Report
You can contact the agency that's reporting the misinformation, and the agency is obligated to investigate. The agency must notify the business from which it got the inaccurate information and that business must investigate the error as well. The agency must remove any incorrect information from your credit report. The business that supplied the erroneous information to the agency must let the other two credit reporting agencies know about this mistake so they can remove it as well.
You Can Clarify Information
You also have the right to clarify information in your report. You can submit a 100-word note to the credit agency. For example, you might want to state that a bankruptcy was caused by high medical bills for your spouse. The agency must then include your statement with every credit report it sells.
Information Has a Time Limit
Negative information can remain on your credit report for up to seven years. If you file for bankruptcy, it can remain on your report for 10 years.
A Consumer Law Attorney Can Help
The law surrounding consumer credit reports is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a consumer law attorney.