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Free Credit Reports – Are They Equal?

Credit reports are major components of a consumer’s credit history. But they can vary widely among different business and financial institutions. For example, most businesses require their employees to provide copies of their credit reports once a year. Although this requirement may seem odd to you, receiving employer or client teases in the mail did not make you less free of obligation. You pay a small fee for each copy of your credit report, but only if you request the corresponding copy; you can use your own request for copies at your own cost; and you provide your reports to all three credit bureaus in the same manner every year.

Federal law requires that “Consumers have the right to receive their free, confidential, annual, or monthly reports from the three major credit bureaus,” and this information is set up and maintained by third parties. These reports do not become “public” until after they have been provided to you by your company. You are entitled to receive the information you need to make informed decisions about your finances and your credit health. Many consumer reporting companies will get copies of your credit reports from different sources, and you are bound by the required reporting requirements.

Other factors to consider are length of time you have had your credit report, types of credit you file a bill with, and your identity as a consumer. Keep in mind that, even after nine years, you still may not be entitled to a free copy of your file. This is because most business information is for sale, and more importantly, may not be useful for long-term credit planning. Even if your credit history is “good,” you still may not be able to get a “good” report.

Some business practices are more likely to be illegal than good. They may ask you to sign a contract that requires their information to be sold or rented, store or trade in, or used in connection with any products, services or places you use. Others may put your name or other identifying information on products that they use.

Fraud alert

Perhaps most important, some consumer reporting companies may use your credit report information to create phishing or other phishing scams. These are no-cost phishing techniques meant to trick people into giving them their credit information, though they do not have the performance protection rating (DPR) necessary to implement them. Some of these scammers, however, may be offered as “free” copies of your credit information as soon as they provide you their address or through other means.

How to protect a confidential report

The following are some important items to keep under control when protecting a consumer credit report:

Know when the report is being requested

Know when the report was requested

To deny a request

To immediately give the owner of the report his/her name, address, Social Security number, and driver license number

To withhold your report

When to disclose the report

The following are some important points to keep under control:

Keep your contact information

Consider contacting the three major credit bureaus by phone, otherwise it is likely that you will not be called by telephone. Ideally the three bureaus will discuss your concerns over each offer, and the consequences. Your concerns include unfair or deceptive business practices, unfair competition, or unfair pricing practices. When you are contacted by this kind of mail, you have the opportunity to speak with truthfully, and honestly, in order to have a meaningful conversation with your creditor.

Inquiries

Under Federal law, if your application for credit is denied, your application may be delayed or turned down for further information. If the denial is placed on your report, the creditor is not required to provide your application with the results of a full inquiry.

Granted Compliances

If you apply for credit, you must comply with consumer reporting requirements. That is, for every 100,000 individuals at risk, you are likely to obtain a loan or credit card. The same is true for some homeowners who have stopped making payments. The following are some of the items on the reporting requirements of such applicants:

Under Federal law, your application, especially your credit report, must contain the information for which it was requested. The information must be pertinent to an individual’s situation, such as an address, a phone number, and so on.

Certain inquiries must not ask for more information or details about your loan or credit history. The Federal Trade Commission sets an absolute maximum level for questions.

Some companies will require you to enclose a copy of your report, in writing, before providing you with credit information. You can order these free from the FTC at http://www.ftc.gov/credit.