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Your personal credit report is a record of information about your credit history, gathered and held by one or more of the 'Credit Reporting Agencies'
(CRAs). There are several of these in the United States, the main ones being Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.
Any company that has granted you credit in the
past will make regular reports about your accounts to a CRA. If, for example, you overdraw on your bank account or fail to make credit card, auto loan
or mortgage payments on time, your bank may inform the CRA; if you are late in making payments to a landlord, hospital, school or utility, any or all
of these organizations could report you to the CRA.
Your credit rating report also includes lots of other important personal details about you and your life circumstances including your name (and any name variations) address (and any previous addresses), telephone number (including any unlisted numbers), Social Security number, date of birth and employment information. It also includes matters of public record such as civil judgments, tax liens, bankruptcies and convictions for crimes.
You have the right of access to your personal credit report under both federal and state laws and you can obtain a copy of it by writing or calling the three CRAs. You will need to provide certain personal details such as your full name, social security number, driver's license information, current address and any other addresses within the last five years, date of birth, home telephone number, employer's name and your signature. There is a small fee (around $9.00) for this service, but it varies from state to state; in some states it is free. In addition Experian and Equifax now offer online access to credit information.
In order to keep a check on your financial affairs it is a good idea to order a copy of your credit report once a year and go through it thoroughly. This is particularly crucial when you know it is going to be used to make important decisions, such as applying for a home or automobile loan. Credit report error can and does occur so it is important for you to check your credit report on a regular basis. You have the right to have errors corrected under both state and federal law.
Potential creditors will seek access to your credit report to assess your credit worthiness. This is determined by a number of factors that comprise a "credit score". The sort of information that is taken into account is whether you have paid your bills on time; whether you have large outstanding debts; the length of your credit history; whether you have applied for new credit very recently and the number and types of credit accounts you already hold.
As you can see, your personal credit report is a very powerful document which can seriously affect your financial well being. Make sure that you are always aware of what is in it by ordering a copy regularly and checking through it carefully.