Ever wonder exactly what a credit report is? Wondering if you have the right to know whatís in your credit report?

Weíve had those same thoughts ourselves! So we turned to the Federal Citizen Information Center to find out more about the law that helps protect you --- the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

We know: Your Credit Report Rights

Whatís a Credit Report?

Consumer reporting agencies (generally called credit bureaus) gather information about you and sell it to creditors, employers, insurers and businesses. These reports include information about where you work and where you live, your bills, your criminal history and whether youíve ever been sued or filed for bankruptcy.

When you go to apply for a credit card, a mortgage, insurance or fill out an application for a job, someone is likely to check one of these credit reports.

Three of the major credit bureaus in the U.S. are called Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

What are my credit report rights?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the following rights, among others:

  1. The right to know what is in your credit report.
  2. The right to see a copy of the report, free of charge, if someone takes adverse action against you, based on the report.

Who has the right to ask to see my credit report?

  1. You report should only be given to someone with a legitimate business need.
  2. If an employer or prospective employer wants to see the report, he or she must get your written permission from you.
  3. Your medical information cannot be given to creditors, employers or insurers without your approval.

How long can negative information remain on my report?

  1. A bankruptcy can remain for 10 years.
  2. Information about a lawsuit or unpaid judgment can remain for 7 years (or until the statute of limitations runs out).
  3. Negative information about your use of credit can remain for 7 years.

If someone denies me a credit, a job or insurance because of a credit report, can I demand to know the name of the credit reporting agency or credit bureau from them?

You betcha!

How much does it cost me to check my credit report when Iím not entitled to a free one?

The fee may vary from state to state; Some states allow you to obtain your report periodically at no cost, others allow you to obtain it for a fee from about $9 - $14. You can also order your credit report and credit score (if desired) from all three agencies at once, either through a third party or from the agencies themselves. This can cost close to $50 depending on the package you get.

How often should I check my credit report/score?

Itís recommended that you check it once a year for incorrect or arbitrary information. Pick a month (like this month) and order your report during the same month of each year.

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