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GETTING YOUR CREDIT REPORT

No matter what your financial situation, it is always important to keep a close eye on your credit report and understand everything credit reporting entails. This is because credit reporting is a complex system subject to error and discrepancy, and yet it determines much of what you are eligible for when it comes to financing and consumer privileges.

There are three main credit bureaus in the United States that are responsible for collection credit-related data for all consumers and individuals. These are Experian, Trans-Union, and Equifax. You should understand that these are profit-driven companies. In other words, the information that they collect about individuals becomes an item that they then sell to companies of virtually every single kind. It is vital to be informed of your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which is an important consumer protection law.

If you look up "credit report" on the internet you will instantly see an ocean of services that will charge you to deliver your credit report. Many of these services claim to be free and yet you need to enter your credit card information in order to obtain your records. (Whether you are asked for your credit card number or Social Security Number, you should always be extremely cautious when giving your personal information online!) However, it is often possible to get these reports for free straight from the credit reporting agencies anyway. By law you are required free access to your report within 60 days of being turned down for any credit application. If you are denied credit, you must receive this denial in form of a letter that must also tell you what credit agency delivered your credit information. The credit bureau's address and telephone number will also be given. You can then contact them and get your report for free.

Also, if you happen to live in Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, or Vermont, you are entitled to a free copy of your report from each bureau once every 6 months. You can also obtain a free copy if you are unemployed and applying for a job within 60 days (you will have to provide an unemployment check or layoff notice as proof of your circumstances). If you receive any type of public assistance or believe you are a victim of fraud, you can also get a copy for free. Once you have your credit report, look it over carefully. You are legally entitled to challenge anything you find on your report- if you find any errors or information that does not seem totally accurate, you may contact the bureau by mail and contest the report. The bureau is obligated to investigate your claim, and it will sometimes happen that they have indeed made a mistake.

For more information about how you can get your credit report and understand everything listed on it, you might find sites such as www.ftc.gov extremely helpful.

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