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How to get a credit report

Do you have a Social Security number? Do you have a bank account? Do you rent an apartment or have your own car? If so, the odds are that you also have a credit record.

The credit record is a mass of information that reveals how you borrow money and how you pay it back. In a world where credit is becoming the standard, where paper money isn't the only legal tender on deck, you'll need a good credit standing or you will be caught on a sinking ship. Today the only life preserver you have is the credit record ... that is if you haven't already sunk to the bottom of the icy credit and debt waters.

The seven year stretch

Let's say you're 25 years old and plan to purchase a new car. All goes well at the dealership until the salesman stomps over to you with a stash of paperwork in his hands. He shakes his head back and forth with shaming eyes. And then he reminds you of your delinquency repaying a credit card when you were 18 years old. Yep, seven years later it's affecting your car deal.

Everything financial from the last seven years shows up on your credit report, including credit cards and student loans. Non-credit information such as marital status, number of dependents, employment history, court documents and criminal convictions is on the report too. And if you hadn't guessed, bankruptcies and your repossessed '83 Chevy Nova will also appear.

Your ability to achieve credit depends on your employment stats, what you are paid, your past credit activity and the way lenders gauge your credit rating. Any erroneous shift in debt payment and you could end up with black marks on your credit reports.

Who's doing all this?

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All of your financial behaviors -- good and bad -- are recorded by banks, retail department stores, credit unions, credit card companies, mortgage companies and finance companies. They, in turn, forward your credit history and payment habits to the following three reporting agencies:

Equifax
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
(800) 685-1111

Experian
P.O. Box 949
Allen, TX 75013
(888) 397-3742

TransUnion
760 West Sproul Road, P.O. Box 390
Springfield, PA 19064-0390
(800) 888-4213

To order your credit report, contact one or all of the agencies above. The information will cost no more than $8 from each one. Residents of Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont all get one free copy of the report each year. You are entitled to a free copy in all 50 states if your application for credit has been turned down, are on welfare or unemployed, or were a victim of credit card fraud.

Your request should contain the following:

  • Your full name
  • Current address
  • Previous address(es)
  • Social Security Number
  • Date of birth
  • Current phone number
  • Last reported employment
  • Current position and employer
  • Signature
  • Applicable fee

Financial specialists advise the average consumer to view their credit report yearly for any inaccuracies or omissions -- especially if you are shopping for a major purchase or just need peace of mind.

-- Posted: Jan. 27, 2000

 

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