You have the right to see what credit information exists about you. Don’t be in the dark when it comes to knowing the information in your credit reports.
Consumer credit information has become a vital part of everyday life. Credit reports contain your credit habits, past and present, and are used by banks, lenders, landlords, insurance companies and even employers to make decisions about you. It is imperative that negative information be dealt with appropriately because of the length of time it remains on reports.
Here’s how long the negative information collected by the credit bureaus is likely to stay on your credit report:
- Bankruptcy: Ten years from the date of filing for Chapter 7 filings, seven years for Chapter 13 filings and seven years for each record marked as “Included in BK”
- Charge-offs (when a creditor or lender writes off the balance of a delinquent debt, no longer expecting it to be repaid): Seven years
- Closed accounts: Seven years if the account was paid late, no expiration date if the account was always paid on time
- Collection accounts: Seven years from the last late payment on the original account
- Inquiries: Two years
- Late payments: Seven years from the date of the late payment
- Judgments: Seven years from the filing date if paid; longer if unpaid
- Tax liens: Fifteen or more years if left unpaid, seven years from the date the lien is paid
The law is on your side when it comes to your credit reports, you have the right to view your credit files and there are several ways to accomplish this:
In 2003 the United States Congress enacted a law, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), allowing consumers to get their credit reports from all three major credit reporting agencies free of charge. Consumers can get a free credit report every 12 months from the three credit reporting agencies.
You can order all three reports at one time or separately. The three major credit bureaus set up a website called annualcreditreport.com to provide easy access to Equifax, Experian and Transunion credit reports. Be careful when you visit the website. As a result of the federal law enacted, many imposter websites, with similar names have popped up.
Make sure you are at the correct website: Annualcreditreport.com. Exposing your personal information to phony websites can lead to identity theft which in turn can lead to a world of headaches while trying to straighten out.
Equifax, Experian and Transunion
Order your credit reports directly from each of the major credit reporting agencies: Equifax.com; Experian.com; and Transunion.com. There is a fee for ordering your credit reports from each credit reporting agency. To pay directly for your credit reports, it is best to call first and get the appropriate fee for your State as fees vary and change:
P.O. Box 105252
Atlanta, GA 30348-5252
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, Texas 75013-2104
2 Baldwin Place
P.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022
MyFico is a division of Fair Isaac, the company which invented the credit scoring model used by most lenders. MyFico offers you not only access to all three credit reports but also your true FICO score used by lenders, banks and credit card companies. Websites like Credit Karma offer free credit scores but keep in mind it is not your FICO score.
Free Credit Reports
Certain situations can get you a free credit report. A denial of credit, employment, housing, insurance and employment entitles you to a free credit report. If you are currently unemployed and seeking employment you are entitled to get a free credit report. If you are on government assistance you can also request free credit reports.