Richard Bogren, Tucker, Jeanette A. | 12/2/2009 4:04:56 AM
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA or FACT ACT) requires each of the credit bureaus to provide you with a free copy of your credit report each year. The big three bureaus have set up a central source where you can get your free annual credit report, according to Dr. Jeanette Tucker, LSU AgCenter family economics specialist.
Credit reports are available from the Annual Credit Report Request Service. You can write the service at P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, Georgia 30348-5281. You can contact them by telephone at 877-322-8228 and on the Internet at www.annualcreditreport.com
“You will need to provide information to verify you are who you say you are,” Tucker says. “We recommend that every four months you order a report, rotating among Equifax, Experian and TransUnion bureaus at spaced intervals, to see if something has shown up that is incorrect.”
Real-estate closings can be delayed, mortgage rates can go up and job opportunities can be lost if there is incorrect negative information on your credit report, she says. So give yourself time to get your credit report and correct it before going forward with any plans.
“Remember, credit reporting bureaus don’t put data in your file,” Tucker says. “They simple maintain the files with data that others report.”
She notes that only inquiries that result from an application for credit are considered in calculating your credit score.
“A credit score is an additional component used in most credit reviews,” Tucker says. “When lenders order your credit report, they also order your credit score. A credit score is a three-digit number ranging between 300 and 850 that indicates your risk of default on a loan.”
Most lenders use your FICO score, which you can get if you order your credit report at the same time. But unlike your credit report, which you get free once a year from each reporting bureau, you have to pay for a copy of your credit score.
You also are entitled to an additional free report from each bureau under any of the following conditions:
– You were denied credit within the past 60 days.
– You are unemployed and planning to seek employment within the next 60 days.
– You are on welfare.
– You are a victim of fraud or identity theft and have reported it to the police.
Credit reporting agencies are required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act to investigate any disputed listings, and a credit bureau must verify the item in question at no cost to you, Tucker says.
“The law requires that creditors respond and verify the entry within 30 days, or the information must be removed from your credit report,” Tucker says. “And the bureau has to notify you of the outcome. If the information in the report has been changed or deleted, you also get a free copy of the revised report.”
Another way to remove inaccurate information from your credit report is to deal directly with the creditor who reported the negative information in the first place. How to contact a creditor is contained on your latest billing statement from that creditor.
Tucker recommends getting a copy of your report when you are planning to:
– Buy or lease a car.
– Buy a house.
– Refinance a mortgage.
– Rent an apartment.
– Apply for a job.
– Apply for a professional license.
– Apply for a security clearance.
– Join the military.
– Be up for a promotion.
– Get married.
– Get divorced.
– Switch insurance companies or buy new insurance.
“Many different types of people can look at your credit report and make an increasing number of significant decisions that can affect your life,” Tucker says. “That is why double-checking your credit report is essential.”