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Credit Reports

Review Your Credit File

Order a free copy of your credit report from the only government-authorized Web site: www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228. Other "free" credit report Web sites were designed to sell you products and services. You are allowed one report yearly from each of the three major participating bureaus, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. You may order all three at once. Or you may want to do your own monitoring by spacing them. Order one from TransUnion now. Four months later, order one form Experian. Then four months after that, order an Equifax report. Repeat the following year. The law doesn’t require the bureaus to provide a free credit score, the three-digit number lenders use to determine if you’re a good risk for a car loan, mortgage or credit card.  You can buy it separately.

Upon request, a consumer reporting agency must disclose to you all of its information and its sources for that information. This includes identification of anyone who obtained reports for employment purposes in the past two years, plus the names of all others who requested credit reports or other information about you in the last six months. The one exception to this disclosure requirement is your medical records, but you may direct that information to the physician of your choice.

You may either make an appointment to review your file or request the information over the phone. In either case, you will need to establish your identity by completing some forms. The credit reporting agency must provide you with a free copy of your file if you have been denied credit within the last 30 days.

When you order, you need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. To verify your identity, you may need to provide some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment.

Your credit file includes information about your:

  • Identity: includes your name, address, marital status, your date of birth, number of dependents, previous address, and Social Security number.
  • Employment: includes your present position, length of employment, income and previous job.
  • Credit History: consists of your credit experiences with specific credit grantors.
  • Public Record: includes civil suits and judgments, bankruptcy records, or other legal proceedings recorded by a court.

Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act and the state law RCW 19.182, consumer reporting agencies may keep correct and verifiable information in your file for seven years, and 10 years in the case of bankruptcy. There are a few exceptions:

  • If you apply for a job which pays more than $75,000 per year, the reporting agency may provide all the information it has, including items over seven years old;
  • Information reported because of an application for more than $50,000 worth of credit or life insurance has no time limitation; and
  • Information concerning lawsuits or judgments against you can be retained in your file for seven years or until the statute of limitations expires, whichever is longer. Under Washington's law relating to judgments, a judgment can remain on your report for a ten-year period after it is entered. If the judgment is renewed, it can remain for an additional ten-year period.

Others Who Can Obtain Your Credit File

Any business, individual, or government agency may request a credit report for its legitimate business needs involving a transaction with the consumer. These include: credit granting considerations; review or collection of an account; employment considerations; insurance underwriting; a potential partnership; security clearance; or lease. Reports may also be issued at the written request of the consumer or a court.

Correcting Errors

Notify the credit reporting agency if you've discovered an error in your file. The agency is required to investigate the items in question within 30 business days of receiving your notice of dispute. If the new investigation reveals an error or if the disputed information cannot be verified, a corrected version will be sent, at your request, to anyone who received the report in the past six months. Job applicants can have corrected reports sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years.

If the new investigation does not solve the problem, you may have the agency include your version of the disputed information on your file. This written explanation or summary must be 100 words or less. This statement will be included in all future issues of your report.

Federal Trade Commission - "How to dispute credit report errors"

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