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Your Credit and You

Credit Report Defined

A credit report is a record of an individual’s credit activities that are maintained by a credit reporting agency or a credit bureau. Presently, there are three major reporting agencies.  Equifax, Experian and Transunion.

Sources of Information

The information is obtained from lenders, businesses that grant credit,  the courts and government departments.

Type of Information

A credit report contains the individual’s ID, recent inquiries, credit information on consumer loans, mortgages, student loans, credit cards, judgments, bankruptcy filings, other public record information including liens and foreclosures.  It lists the original amounts and payment patterns, including late or skipped payments and indicates if any accounts have been placed with a debt collection firm.  The report also shows information on accounts that are joint or for which an individual has a contractual liability.  

Obtaining a Credit Report

Everyone is encouraged to get copies of his/her credit report periodically in order to avoid any unwelcome surprises.

The contact information for the major credit reporting agencies are:

Equifax
P.O. Box 105873
Atlanta, GA 30348
800-685-1111  http://www.equifax.com

Experian Transunion
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013-2104
888-397-3742  http://www.experian.com

Consumer Disclosure Center
P.O. Box 1000  
Chester, PA 19022 
800-916-8800 or  800-888-4213  http://www.transunion.com 

Free credit reports can also be obtained annually at

Annual Credit Report Request Service at https://annualcreditreport.com or (877) 322-8228.

Credit Report and Negative Information

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that most negative items remain on reports for no more than seven years. Exceptions are for bankruptcy filings which can be reported for up to ten years after the last action has been taken. FRCA also permits challenges to information on a credit report if the individual deems it incomplete or inaccurate. The credit bureau is required to complete the investigation within a “reasonable period of time” and promptly delete it, if applicable.

Any negative report (late payments, missed payments etc.) can hurt your chances of being approved for a loan. However, your GERS loan application may be denied primarily because of excessive indebtedness which is shown on your credit report or insufficient income to service your new loan.

Tips to Guide You

  1. Take advantage of the free credit report that you are entitled to once a year.  Review the rating, balance and activity for each account and dispute any inaccuracies with the appropriate reporting agency, as allowed under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
  2. Have readily available any evidence that could substantiate your dispute for any negatively reported information.
  3. Try to increase your monthly credit card payments.  Do not make minimum payments unless it is absolutely unavoidable.
  4. Make all payments on time, and when available use the on-line services for paying accounts because some payments can be made less than 24 hours before the due date.
  5. Be aware of the responsibilities of sharing credit cards and co-signing loans.  If the person with whom you co-signed the loan defaults on the payments, it is also negatively reported on your report.  This payment will be counted as one of your monthly debts, and it could potentially compromise your qualification for a new loan.
  6. Do not exceed the limits on your credit cards.  If you are planning a long term investment like a mortgage, you might be asked to reduce your debts.  If your balances are low, you improve your chances of getting them paid off.
  7. Provide a detailed written explanation of any accounts that you know are negatively reported.  Discuss this with your Loan Processor who will provide guidance.
  8. Try to settle accounts that have been placed for collection. Explain any hardship that you are experiencing and inquire if you can get a settlement for a reduced amount. Some creditors are willing to accept a partial payment rather than nothing at all.
  9. Don’t be fooled.  Accounts that are listed as write offs does not mean that you are free and clear of the debt.  The creditor can continue to try and collect on the debt.  You can also attempt to settle on these outstanding debts.
  10. Try to obtain a written document from any creditor that claims it does not have any record of accounts written off or are in collection.