Credit reporting bureaus are powerful institutions but are nonetheless very important players in the financial health of a country. Large lending institutions like banks, mortgage companies and other creditors take risks when they give loans to consumers for buying homes, cars, personal loans, paying for a college education, etcetera.
Creditors attempt to minimize the risk of these loans by carefully examining the credit history of borrowers. If a borrower has a bad credit history, then the lender might not give him a loan, or may charge him a higher interest rate.
If you've ever owned a credit card or applied for a loan, then you have a credit history. Credit reporting agencies compile and maintain your credit history. They collect your credit history
from credit card companies, banks, mortgage companies and other creditors to create an in-depth credit report. The information in that report is also used to calculate a three-digit credit scorecalled a FICO score
Credit reports are a gold mine of information about consumers. They contain Social Security number, date of birth, current and previous addresses, telephone number (including unlisted numbers), credit payment status, employment, even legal information. Companies make a lot of money off your credit reports that sometimes they overstep their limit into gray areas that are rife for lawsuit. Recently, a class-action lawsuit prevailed against one of the credit reporting bureaus, TransUnion. The said credit reporting agency settled with a group of plaintiffs, with the final settlement set to be approved on September 2008. It was a victory for consumers against one of the major credit reporting agencies. For more information about this important victory, go to this pageto learn about a free credit check and free credit score that comes with it from TransUnion.
Your credit report is divided into six main sections: consumer information (address, birthday and employment), consumer statement, account histories, public records, inquiries and creditor contacts. When you open a new account, miss a payment or move, these sections are updated with new information. Old negative records will stay on your credit report for 7-10 years. Positive records can remain on your credit report longer. Not all creditors report to them and the agencies obtain their data independently so your reports from TransUnion, Equifax and Experian could be substantially different from each other.
Anyone with a "legitimate business need" can gain access to your credit history, including:
More Infos About Credit Reporting Agencies
The same lending institutions that supply information to credit reporting agencies also request reports when a consumer applies for credit. Individual consumers can request copies of their credit reports and credit scores , as well. Credit reporting agencies only share credit reports and scores when there's a request, also called an inquiry.
Thanks to the federal FACT Act, consumers nationwide are now able to get a free annual credit report from each of the three credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. To order your free reports, you can call the official toll-free number, (877) 322-8228. You can also go online to www.annualcreditreport.com where you can order your reports directly.
Be warned though that with this free credit report, you cannot get your credit score. The credit reporting agencies charge for that important credit score.