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Free Credit Report

There are three national credit-reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. These three national credit reporting agencies compile and report a variety of information on you.

Your credit report contains your full name, current and previous addresses, home and work phone numbers, Social Security number, marital status, date of birth, and current and previous places of employment. It also includes information that is a matter of public record—bankruptcies, tax liens, and any judgments filed against you.

It also includes a list of creditors who have extended you credit, what you currently owe them, and whether you have paid your accounts on time will also appear on your credit report. Most banks, credit unions, finance companies, and mortgage lenders report information to the credit bureaus.

Anytime you apply for credit, an inquiry is made on your credit report. Lenders may view too many credit inquiries in a short period of time as a potential warning sign, and may ask you why you are applying for credit with so many other lenders. These types of inquiries, however, are different than what are known as soft inquiries. A soft inquiry will appear on your credit report when you receive an unsolicited credit card offer in the mail.

Thanks to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act, you can now get a free copy of your credit report every year. You can go to www.annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or request one by mail by writing to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. If you request a credit report by mail, you must include a form with your request. The form is available for download at the Federal Trade Commission’s website at www.ftc.gov/credit.

When you request your credit report online, you will be asked to provide your name, address, previous address, Social Security number, and birth date. You can choose to receive a report from all three credit bureaus at once, or you can choose a report from one bureau, wait four months, and choose one from another bureau. This allows you to have a new copy of your credit report throughout the year. At a minimum, you should review your credit report yearly.


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