1 Credit Reports published by AAA Fair Credit Foundation
2 Credit Reports 1. What is a Credit Report? What Your Credit Report Reveals About You Getting a Copy of Your Credit Report What is a Credit Score? How are Credit Scores Calculated? Keeping a Good Credit Score The Effects of Overdue Payments Reviewing Your Credit Report Inaccurate and Incorrect Information Co-Signed Debts Authorized Users Facts & Fallacies Attachment 1 - Sample letter for requesting a credit report...19 Attachment 2 - Sample dispute letter...20
3 What is a Credit Report? 1 A credit report is a detailed file of information about an individual s credit Employers, insurance companies, and rental housing agencies are typically The personal information section identifies your full name, any aliases history. The payment history notes any late payments and how late each history that is prepared by a credit who use investigative reports. To used, social security number, current payment was made. bureau, an agency that gathers and sells credit information. These agencies are also referred to as consumer reporting agencies. Credit reports are used by lenders and other agencies to determine the credit worthiness of that individual. Generally there are two types of : investigative and consumer. Investigative Investigative reports are more like obtain this report the requestor must either receive your explicit permission or the credit bureau must notify you directly about the request. In any case you have the right to add your own statement or comments to the report before it is forwarded to the requesting party. Consumer This is the report that lenders and other creditors use to determine whether or address, and previous addresses. It may also include your age or year of birth, phone number, and employer information. The account information section breaks out each credit account you have from your mortgage and auto loans to your credit cards and store accounts. It will also show the creditor name, highest balance, current balance, and payment Recent inquiries are the names of those who obtained a copy of your credit report in the past year. For investigative reports, recent inquiries will include all requests for the last two years. Your credit report should never contain information irrelevant to determining credit worthiness such as race, color, gender, national origin, marital status, or political persuasion. background checks as opposed to the not they will grant someone a loan or traditional concept of a credit report. other line of credit. This report reveals They contain information regarding a in-depth information about your credit person s character, general reputation, history and includes a report summary, personal characteristics, or lifestyle as personal information, detailed account obtained through personal interviews information, and lists recent inquiries. with neighbors, friends, and other associates. An investigative report should not contain information about late payments since this report cannot be used to grant monetary credit. The summary is a quick overview of the details contained in the report. It will total how many different types of credit you have, the number of open and closed accounts and the number of late payments, collection accounts, or other public records. what is a credit report? what is a credit report? 2 3
4 What Your Credit Report Reveals About You Getting a Copy of Your Credit Report 2 Your credit report reveals how much of a risk you are to the creditor. It helps them determine if you have the ability to pay, how likely you are to pay, and how likely you are to make payments on time. In the case of investigative reports, it helps agencies determine whether or not you might be a good rental tenant or a reliable employee. There are four main areas addressed in your credit report: 3 Length of Credit How long you have had credit? A 20 year old will have a shorter credit history than a 30 year old. The amount of time you have managed or mismanaged your accounts does make a difference in how creditors view your risk level to them. 4 Inquiries Made About You How many credit applications have you made? Regardless of whether 3 Currently, there are three main, independent bureaus that compile. Each bureau has its own method for collecting and reporting information; therefore, what appears in your report from one bureau may not be the same as what another bureau reports. It is for this reason that you should check your report from each of the three bureaus. You are entitled to receive one free Other ways to get your report: Over the Internet. There are many places online that offer credit monitoring services. Be careful when selecting this type of service. Many places may state the service is free; however, they will ask you for your credit card details and you must then remember to cancel your subscription within 30 days or you will be charged a monthly fee for the service. 1 Your Level of Debt How much money do you owe to individual creditors? This includes mortgages, auto loans, and revolving credit accounts. 2 Your Bill-Paying Habits Did and do you pay on time? Do you have delinquent accounts? Did the creditor send your account to a collection agency? Have you filed for bankruptcy? you obtain the credit, it is the number of times you applied that is detailed here. This includes inquiries made by insurance providers and employers. copy of your credit report from the bureau of your choice each year. You may request your free report online at This report will not contain your credit score. Usually you must pay an additional fee for your report to contain that score. You may also request a free copy of your credit report anytime you are denied credit, are on welfare, or your report is inaccurate because of fraud. The advantage of using an online service is it allows you immediate access to your report instead of having to wait for it to come in the mail. Also, if you have been a victim of identity theft, paying for the monthly subscription could be to your benefit as you will be notified immediately of any changes that post to your file which will help you closely monitor potential fraud. what credit reveals getting a copy 4 5
5 What is a Credit Score? In Writing. You may send a letter directly to each of the credit bureaus A sample letter for requesting a credit report is included on page 17. You 4 A credit score is a statistical computation of the information contained Credit scores through VantageScore range from , 990 being the requesting a copy of your credit report. may contact each of the three credit in an individual s credit report that is best or indicating the lowest credit risk. Be sure to include the following when bureaus at the following: reflected as a numerical value ranging In addition to calculating a numeric writing to these bureaus: Your full name including suffixes such as Sr., Jr., III, etc. Any aliases you have used current and past addresses for the last 5 years Social Security Number Birth Date Equifax P.O. Box , Atlanta, GA Experian EXPERIAN ( ) P.O. Box 2002, Allen TX Trans Union P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA from 300 to 850, 850 being the best. The most well-known type of credit score is the Fair Isaac, or FICO score. This numerical value is how most creditors determine under what terms they should extend credit to an individual. For example, someone with a high credit score usually receives more favorable terms such as lower interest or no-fee credit cards, mortgage loans, and auto loans. score, the VantageScore model will also assign a letter grade rating, A through F, to each consumer. However, for now, the FICO model is still being used as the standard in credit scoring models. More information about the VantageScore model may be found at or by contacting any of the three major credit reporting agencies. So, what s the average credit score for Telephone Number Additionally, individuals with higher scores find it easier to obtain credit Americans? Well, the answer depends on who you ask. If you are interested in when needed. comparing your score to the average Recently, the three major credit bureaus have come together to offer their own collaborative scoring model called VantageScore. It is speculated that this model will offer more consistent and objective scoring amongst the three bureaus and should reduce the large American, check out com, and www. nationalscore.com. These websites all offer extensive information regarding credit scores as well as updated averages and statistics regarding national credit score rankings. scoring differences that each bureau can sometimes report on the same getting a copy what is a credit score? exact consumer. 6 7
6 How are Credit Scores Calculated? 5 Scores are computed using a mathematical formula that was designed and sold to credit bureaus by Fair, Isaac and Company (FICO). No one, especially Fair, Isaac will give you the exact formula used for computing credit scores; however, a lot is known about how different information types are weighted within that formula. Credit scores consider both the positive and negative information in your credit report. Positive information will increase your score and negative information can decrease your score. The following graph depicts what is known about the importance of different factors on the outcome of your credit score: Payment History 35% payment information on specific types of accounts (credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, finance company accounts, mortgage, etc.) presence of adverse public records (bankruptcy, judgments, suits, liens, wage attachments, etc.), collection items, and/or delinquency (past due items) severity of delinquency (how long past due) amount past due on delinquent accounts or collection items Time since past due items (delinquency), adverse public records (if any), or collection items (if any) Number of past due items on file Number of accounts paid as agreed Amounts Owed 30% Amounts owed on accounts amounts owed on specific types of accounts lack of a specific type of balance, in some cases Number of accounts with balances proportion of credit lines used (proportion of balances to total credit limits on certain types of revolving accounts) proportion of installment loan amounts still owing (proportion of balance to original loan amount on certain types of installment loans) Length of Credit History 15% Time since accounts opened Time since accounts opened by specific type of account Time since account activity Time since recent account opening(s), by type of account Time since credit inquiry(s) Re-establishment of positive credit history following past payment problems Types of Credit Used 10% number of (presence, prevalence, and recent information on) various types of accounts (credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, mortgage, consumer finance accounts, etc.) It is important to remember that while your credit score only looks at the information in your credit report, creditors may consider additional information when making a credit decision. This may include your income, how long you have worked New Credit 10% number of recently opened accounts, and proportion of accounts that are recently opened, by type of account Number of recent credit inquiries at your present job and the kind of credit being requested. Additionally, for some people one factor may be more important than it is for someone else with a different credit history and as the information in your credit report changes, so does the importance of c a l c u l at i n g c a l c u l at i n g each factor in determining your score. 8 9
7 Keeping a Good Credit Score In late 2007, Fair Issac Co. introduced a revised version of its scoring model On the other hand, individuals prone to making repeated late payments will see 6 As you can see in the chart on page 8, payment history makes up the biggest correct all inaccurate information with all three credit bureaus called FICO 08. This updated scoring model is expected to be incorporated by the three major credit bureaus and their scores take a harder hit than they did before. The new scoring system also penalizes to a greater degree chunk of your credit score. So, it makes sense that the number one thing you should do is pay your bills on time, Make sure all old accounts are closed at YOUR request major lending institutions by mid While the different parts of a credit score (payment history, amounts owed, etc.) will still carry the same weight in the overall score, there are some new factors that FICO 08 considers that are designed to give a more accurate risk assessment of the consumer. The good news is that the new scoring consumers who use a high percentage of their available credit, those who have high debt-to-income ratios. More information on debt-to-income ratios may be found online at www. consumercents.com. The other major change in the new scoring model is the elimination of authorized users in the calculation of every time. Some other tips for keeping your credit score at its best: Keep your Debt-to-Income level low Keep applications for new credit to a minimum dispute incorrect negative information with all three credit bureaus Request that all missing positive information be included in your report notify your creditors in writing with any change of address Fill out credit applications all the same Review your credit report at least once per year model is more forgiving of accidental credit scores. Authorized users are slip-ups. For example if you have a individuals who have permission to good payment history and accidentally use an established credit account in forget a payment one month, your overall another person s name, but are not score won t be penalized as much as it legally responsible for payment on was under the previous scoring model. the account. The new scoring model This is because the new model takes no longer considers authorized use into account your good payment history accounts in calculating credit scores as well as the status of your other because of deceptive credit building accounts to assess whether or not the tactics involving these accounts. missed payment is a sign of increased risk or just simply an oversight. c a l c u l at i n g K e e p i n g g o o d s c o r e s 10 11
8 The Effects of Overdue Payments Reviewing Your Credit Report 7 Time Action Early stage Up-to 59 days past due Customer is notified that another payment is due; account needs to be brought current. Customer telephoned for immediate arrangement Typically one day is allowed after leaving message for customer before follow-up phone call. Initial derogatory report made to credit bureaus anywhere from 31st to 61st day of delinquency, depending on creditor policy. Mid stage days past due Advanced delinquency procedures begin: account closed or credit line suspended; ongoing derogatory reporting. Customer notified. notice of default and chance to fix the situation sent to customer. Late stage Over 120 days past due Actions of last resort undertaken: ongoing derogatory reporting; balance is accelerated and payable in full. Third-party collectors often take over the account 8 Various consumer studies have found that between 70% and 80% of all credit reports contain at least one inaccuracy. Even though it is creditors who supply the information contained in your credit file, you are responsible for ensuring the information s accuracy. Incorrect information can be detrimental to your credit score so it is important to review your reports regularly. This practice is also an effective way to help protect you from Identity Theft, America s fastest growing crime. You should review your report from each of the three credit bureaus at least once per year. Some of the most obvious things to look for are: Information included is current. Many agencies do not report to the three bureaus as often as they should. Your personal information is correct, including previous address and employer listings. The accounts in your report are accounts you have opened and each reflect the correct balance, credit limit and payment history. The inquiries listed in the report are inquiries you authorized. Credit reports can be hard to decipher. If you find yourself having troubles interpreting your report, check with a non-profit credit counseling agency. Many of these agencies will go through your report with you, to help you from the creditor. understand all the information included legal proceedings are initiated for judgments; in your file. possession; execution; garnishment, etc. o v e r d u e pay m e n t s reviewing your report 12 13
9 Incorrect and Inaccurate Information Co-Signed Debts 9 So, what happens when you get your credit report and find that the report Credit bureaus then have 30 days to investigate your claim and respond with 10 Be careful when someone asks you to co-sign with them on a credit contract. into your total debt level when others view your report or your credit score is contains either inaccurate or incorrect their findings. Information that cannot By doing so you are making a promise calculated. information? You need to make a report to the credit bureaus, notifying them of the mistake(s) you found. This is often be substantiated as correct must be removed from the report. If the dispute is not resolved to your satisfaction, to that creditor or lending institution that you will repay the debt should the other signor default on the account. As If the person you co-sign for does not pay the debt: called disputing information. First, notify all three bureaus of the mistake, in writing, keeping a copy for your records. In your letter detail what you are allowed to make a personal statement, up to 100 words, to be included with any report the credit bureau issues in the future. you can imagine, co-signing for a debt carries serious obligations and can be disastrous if you sign for the wrong person. The creditor has the legal right to come after you for payment. If a co-signed debt goes to collection: the inaccurate or incorrect information is and why it is wrong. You also need to provide proof or evidence of your claim. A sample letter for disputing information is included on page 18. Finally, follow up to make sure the credit bureaus actually remove the inaccuracies or add your personal statement. You may request that each bureau sends you an updated copy of your report once they make any Creditors usually require a co-signor when they don t have enough confidence in the primary borrower. Now, this could be because the person doesn t have a long enough credit history, they have had credit problems a collection agency may try to collect the debt from you. Institutions can sue you and get a judgment against you for the debt, plus interest and legal fees. necessary changes. in the past, or their income level is not high enough. If you are ever asked If the person files bankruptcy: to co-sign for a debt, you should be equally concerned about that person s ability to pay. The co-signed debt cannot be part of the person s bankruptcy application and you become totally responsible Any debts you co-sign for will show for the full repayment of the debt. inaccurate info co-signed debts up as a credit account on your credit report regardless of whether or not you are paying on the account. This is because you can be held legally responsible for the debt and therefore, the amount of that debt is factored Everyone wants to help a friend or relative in need, but you should never do so at the expense of your own credit worthiness. The best advice when it comes to co-signing for a debt: don t do it
10 Authorized Users Facts & Fallacies 11 An authorized user is someone who has permission to use a credit As a result Fair Isaac included provisions in its latest credit scoring model, Fallacy: My score determines whether a current score when you submit a credit application, so they have the account, but no obligation to pay the FICO 08, which ignores authorized use or not I get credit. most recent information available. debt. With credit cards an authorized accounts completely when calculating Fact: Creditors use a number of facts Therefore by taking the time to improve user generally receives a card with credit scores. While this eliminates to make credit decisions, including your your score, you can qualify for more their name on it. The account will also the advantages gained by individuals FICO score. They look at information favorable lending terms. appear on the authorized user s credit report even though only the person who opened the account is actually liable for paying off the debt. The most common reason for placing an authorized user on an account has been when spouses add each other to their own accounts as a way for both spouses to have access to the account, or when parents add a child to an account in participating in piggybacking schemes, it also removes the ability of spouse to bolster their credit scores as authorized users on each other s accounts as well as the option for parents to assist their children in building credit as authorized users. While the elimination of authorized users from the credit scoring model poses an inconvenience for those participating such as the amount of debt you can reasonably handle given your income, your employment history, and your credit history. Based on their perception of this information, as well as their specific underwriting policies, creditors may extend credit to you although your score is low or even decline your request for credit although your score is high. 3. Fallacy: Credit scoring is unfair to minorities. Fact: Scoring considers only creditrelated information. Factors like gender, race, nationality and marital status are not included. In fact, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) prohibits lenders from considering this type of information when issuing credit. order to help the child get started in as authorized users for its intended 2. Independent research has been done building their own credit history. purpose, there are other ways to Fallacy: A poor score will haunt me to make sure that credit scoring is not However, in the last few years a deceptive practice known as piggybacking has surfaced where individuals with poor credit pay to be added as an authorized user on the accounts of a stranger with good credit. They do this in order to qualify for loans or credit offers where they would normally be denied because of their own poor credit history. achieve the same goals. If you want to help a child build their own credit history, consider opening an account with your child as a joint user (where both parties are liable for payment). Make sure the account is one that is either pre-paid or has a low, locked in limit so there is no risk of your child charging more than they (or you) can afford. facts & fallacies forever. Fact: Just the opposite is true. A score is a snapshot of your risk at a particular point in time. It changes as new information is added to your bank and credit bureau files. Scores change gradually as you change the way you handle credit. For example, past credit problems impact your score less as time passes. Lenders request unfair to minorities or people with little credit history. Scoring has proven to be an accurate and consistent measure of repayment for all people who have some credit history. In other words, at any given score, non-minority and minority applicants are equally likely to pay as agreed
11 Attachment 1 Sample letter for requesting credit report 4. Fallacy: Credit scoring infringes on my privacy. Fact: Credit scoring evaluates the same information lenders already look at - the credit bureau report, credit application and/or your bank file. A score is simply a numeric summary of that information. Creditors who use scoring sometimes ask for less information - fewer questions on the application form, for example. 5. Fallacy: My score will drop if I apply for new credit. Fact: If it does, it probably won t drop much. If you apply for several credit cards within a short period of time, multiple requests for your credit report information (called inquiries ) will appear on your report. Looking for new credit can equate with higher risk, but most credit scores are not affected by multiple inquiries from auto or mortgage lenders within a short period of time. Typically, these are treated as a single inquiry and will have little impact on the credit score. MY NAME MY ADDRESS MY PHONE NUMBER SEND 1 COPY TO ALL 3 CREDIT BUREAUS: DATE Dear Sir/Madam, REQUEST FOR CREDIT REPORT Please provide one FREE copy of my credit report. Name/s: Addresses: Telephone Number: Date of Birth SS# Yours truly, SIGNATURE NAME facts & fallacies requesting credit 18 19
12 Attachment 2 Sample dispute letter Date Your Name Your Address Your City, State, Zip Code Complaint Department Name of Credit Reporting Agency Address City, State, Zip Code Dear Sir or Madam: I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. The items I dispute are also encircled on the attached copy of the report I received. (Identify item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.) This item is (inaccurate or incomplete) because (describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why). I am requesting that the item be deleted (or request another specific change) to correct the information. Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence if applicable and describe any enclosed documentation, such as payment records, court documents) supporting my position. Please reinvestigate this (these) matter(s) and (delete or correct) the disputed item(s) as soon as possible. Sincerely, Your name dispute letter Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing) 20
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September 2008 How to Dispute Credit Report Errors Y our credit report contains information about where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you ve been sued or arrested, or have filed for bankruptcy.
Credit Reporting Commonly Asked Questions What is a credit score and how does it affect a consumer? A credit score is a number that lenders use to predict how likely an individual is to repay a loan or
Credit Repair Made Easy A simple self help guide to credit repair By Don Troiano Introduction My name is Don Troiano and I spent over 15 years in the mortgage industry. Knowing how to guide customers in
About credit reports Credit Reporting Agencies Credit reporting agencies maintain files on millions of borrowers. Lenders making credit decisions buy credit reports on their prospects, applicants and customers
Facts On Credit Bureaus The following information relates to the understanding and use of a credit score. Listed are details regarding the determination of a credit score, how you can find out what your
A LESSON PLAN TO UNDERSTANDING Credit Scores Provided by A LESSON PLAN TO UNDERSTANDING Credit Scores Provided by INTRODUCTION A credit score is a three-digit number derived from a mathematical interpretation
Your Credit Repair Solution Introduction Your Credit Report Solution will help you understand that there is help available for fixing your credit. Even though you might feel as though you are alone and
IDENTITY THEFT RESOURCE KIT TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction 2 What To Do Now 3 Key Agencies to Contact 3 Other Important Contacts 4 Action Taken Form 6 Sample Letters 7 How Identity Theft Can Occur 9 What
Understanding Credit Megan Stearns, Credit Counselor Obtaining your free credit report will lower your credit score. Closing old accounts can help your credit score. Paying off the balances on your credit
Credit Histories & Credit Scores Credit Histories - Definition A continuing record of a borrower s debt commitments and how well they have been honored. (Similar to a transcript) Credit Score - Definition
Do You Know Your Credit Rights? Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia 1 C redit can play an important role in your daily life. For example, you may use a credit card to make purchases, or you may obtain
Understanding Vehicle Financing Understanding Vehicle Financing With prices averaging more than $31,000 for a new vehicle and $17,000 for a used model from a dealership, you might consider financing or
To Your Credit Welcome 1. Agenda 2. Ground Rules 3. Introductions To Your Credit 2 Objectives Define credit Explain why credit is important Describe the purpose of a credit report and how it is used Order
PA HealthCare Credit Union The Credit Clinic The PA HealthCare Credit Union contributes to the financial success of our members. 1 Copyright 2006 Agenda Welcome & Introduction Overview Product Rate Credit
UNDERSTANDING Your CREDIT REPORT & SCORES www.credit.org Promoting Financial Literacy About Springboard Springboard is a non-profit organization founded in 1974. We offer personal financial education and
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