Planning my Financial Future
This section provides information about credit reporting. More information about credit reporting may be found on the “Navigating My Debts” page.
If you have been denied access to credit, e.g., denial or cancellation of credit, increased finance charges, or other unfavorable actions limiting your access to credit, the lender must provide you with a written notice summarizing the reasons for its decision and information about how to contact the Consumer Reporting Agency for a copy of the report.
The three nationwide consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) can help you understand your credit score and how to rehabilitate your credit history or improve your credit score. You can find more information via their websites:
- TransUnion: https://www.transunion.com/
- Experian: https://www.experianplc.com/
- Equifax: https://www.equifax.com/personal/
Note that you’re entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of these three nationwide CRAs. You can order your free credit report online at annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. You will have to supply information such as name, date of birth, and Social Security number to verify your identity. For more information about credit scores, visit the CFPB’s credit reports and scores webpage.
If you believe that you have been the victim of fraud or identity theft, you have the right to place alerts on your credit files. There are three types of alerts that can be placed in a credit report: Initial fraud alerts, extended fraud alerts, and active-duty alerts.
An initial fraud alert stays on your credit report for one year, after which it will automatically expire. It’s a good solution if you’re concerned that you may have been the victim of identity theft or fraud.
An extended fraud alert will remain on your credit report for seven years. Extended fraud alerts must be requested by mail and requires you to submit documentation to prove your identify and verify an identify theft (e.g., an identity theft report filed with local police).
An active-duty alert, available to United States service members on active military duty, helps minimize the risk of fraud or identity theft while deployed. An active-duty alert, like an initial fraud alert; makes it harder for someone to open unauthorized accounts in your name. It encourages lenders and creditors to take extra steps to verify your identity, such as contacting you by phone, before opening a new credit account in your name or making changes to existing accounts. In addition, the servicemember’s name will be removed from pre-screened credit card or insurance offers for two years. Active-duty alerts can be added to your credit report for free and will last for one year.
Once you have placed a credit alert on your credit report with one of the bureaus, that bureau will send a request to the other two bureaus to do the same, so you should not need to contact all three.
When a company is a data furnisher, they enter into agreements with the consumer reporting agencies to abide by certain reporting policies and standards. These include an agreement not to negotiate a payment in exchange for deletion of an accurate item from a consumer’s credit history.
At the same time, federal law requires data furnishers to report accurate credit data. Accordingly, when an account has been paid or settled, a debt collector has an obligation to report it as paid or settled. It may take 30-60 days for this updated information to appear on your credit report, depending on the timing of the reporting cycle.
Under some circumstances, deletion of an item on a consumer’s credit history may be legitimately justified, e.g., in instances of identity theft or clerical error.