The Voice for Local Real Estate

Credit Reports

The best way to find out about your credit is to get a copy of your credit report. Information about your credit is collected by three credit reporting agencies. The report will show how much debt you have, if you make payments on time and if you have not paid back your loans. A credit report allows lenders to make objective decisions because it does not show information about your race, religion, medical history, personal lifestyle, political preference and criminal record. Beginning July 1, 2005, consumers can gain access to an annual free credit report at or by calling (877) 322-8228. Consumers must pay a small fee to receive their credit scores.

A credit report includes four types of information:

  1. Identifying information: your name, current and previous addresses, telephone number, Social Security number, date of birth and current and previous employers.
  2. Credit information: specific details about your credit cards, student loans and other loans. This information includes the date the account is opened, credit limit or loan amount, balance and monthly payment. The report also shows your payment history during the past several years and the names of anyone else responsible for paying the account, such as a spouse or a co-signer. Late payments, skipped payments, accounts turned over to a collection agency and repossessions appear here. This information is provided by the companies with which you do business.
  3. Public record information: bankruptcy records, foreclosures, tax liens for unpaid taxes, monetary court judgments (such as lawsuits) and overdue child support. This information comes from public records.
  4. Inquiries: the names of those who obtained a copy of your credit report and how often you have applied for credit in the past two years. When you order a credit report, you may also see the names of companies that have reviewed your report for “pre-approved” credit offers in the last six months. However, these names will not be given to creditors who request a copy of your report. Creditors only see the inquires you initiate (by applying for a new credit card, for example).

Does information stay on your report forever?
No. Information on your report will rotate off after a set amount of time. Bankruptcy proceedings will remain on a report for 10 years after the final action is taken. Other debts will stay on the report for seven years after the last action is taken.

    Information in this section was provided by Jon Clayton, Director of Educational Services at Memphis Consumer Credit Association.

    Who Can Access Your Credit Report?
    The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows certain people, besides you, to view your credit report.

    • Potential lenders
    • Landlords
    • Insurance companies
    • Employers & potential employers (usually only with your written consent)
    • Companies with which you have a credit account for account monitoring purposes
    • Entities considering your application for a government license or benefit (if the agency must consider your financial status)
    • A state or local child support enforcement agency
    • Any government agency (name, address, former addresses, current and former employers)
    • Someone to whom you have instructed the credit reporting agency to provide a credit report
    How Do You Get a Copy of Your Credit Report?
    You can order a credit report from one of the three credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Their contact information is in the box to the right. When you order the report, you will have to provide your Social Security Number, date of birth, current and previous addresses for the past five years and maiden name, if applicable.
    Equifax - (800) 685-1111
    P.O. Box 740241
    Atlanta , GA 30374

    Experian - (888) 397-3742

    Trans Union - (800) 916-8800
    P.O. Box 2000
    Chester , PA 19022

    The credit reporting agencies must provide an individual with a free report any time they have been denied credit by a lender. Beginning September 1, 2005, individuals are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months. This is a new regulation under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). To read more about FACTA and FCRA, go to the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site:

    Once you get your credit report, you may need some help understanding what it says. There are several organizations, including nonprofit credit counseling agencies in Memphis that can help you. You can also call the credit-reporting agency.

    Credit Report Errors
    Sometimes there are mistakes on a credit report, which can hurt your chances of getting a loan. If you think there is an error or outdated information on yoWhat ur report, you have the right to have the mistakes corrected at no charge. You have several options:
    • The credit report may include instructions on how to correct errors. Follow the instructions to tell the credit reporting agency about the mistake.
    • Often alerting the agency by phone will take care of the error.
    • If additional information is needed to correct the error, the credit reporting agency will tell you what to send them. If you have kept good records, it will be much easier to show where the mistake occurred.
    • You may want to explain the problem in a brief letter. The credit reporting agency must investigate the complaint within 30 days and get back to you with the results. The agency will check with the creditor about the information you are questioning. If the information is incorrect, the creditor must contact the other major credit reporting agencies.
    • If the agency does not find an error, but you still believe your credit report is inaccurate, you can contact the creditor directly to try to resolve the dispute. When you resolve the dispute, have the creditor send a letter to the agency.
    • If the issue remains unresolved, you have the right to explain your side of the story. You may write up to 100 words explaining the situation. This will appear on your credit report.

    Information in this section was provided by Jon Clayton, Director of Educational Services at Memphis Consumer Credit Association.