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Credit Card Basics  Chapter 2: Credit reports and scores
Here's how to order and read your credit reports and how your credit score is affected by the reports.
Credit reports and scores

Fixing mistakes on your credit report
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Billing errors also include:

Once you have written about a possible error, a creditor must not give out information to other creditors or credit bureaus that would hurt your credit reputation until the matter is resolved. And, until your complaint is answered, the creditor also may not take any action to collect the disputed amount.

The law is on your side
Keep in mind, the law is on your side if information on your credit report is proven to be false but is not removed, according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Under the law, you are entitled to actual damages, plus punitive damages that the court may allow if the violation is proved to have been intentional. In any successful lawsuit, you will also be awarded court costs and attorney's fees.

If you feel that a credit bureau has not responded promptly and fairly to your situation, contact the attorney general of your state or the Federal Trade Commission in Washington at 1-877-FTC-HELP, or 1-877-382-4357.

You may also sue any credit-reporting agency or creditor for breaking the rules about who may see your credit records or for not correcting errors in your file.

A person who obtains a credit report without proper authorization -- or an employee of a credit reporting agency who gives a credit report to unauthorized persons -- may be fined up to $5,000 or imprisoned for one year, or both.

Who can see your report?
But a lot of people can see that report - including everyone to whom you have applied for a loan or credit. So be careful when applying for credit.

When the companies you apply to check your report, they can find out who else has been checking your report and determine what, when and how you have been applying for credit. That means if you have been getting turned down and are desperately applying for credit all over town your potential creditors will know.

Now, discover how the information on your credit reports evolves in a credit score.

-- Updated: Sept. 29, 2008
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