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How and Why To Work With Credit Bureaus
A credit bureau is an organization that tracks the credit histories and related information of individuals and businesses. The three major nationwide credit bureaus are Experian, Trans Union and Equifax. The job of a national credit bureau is to collect and sell credit information. A credit bureau is a clearinghouse for credit history information. Make no mistake about, they make a tidy sum by collecting and selling this information when a business or individual applies for credit.
When you, as an individual or a business apply for credit of virtually any kind, that information gets sent to at least one or more of the credit bureaus. Even if you are declined, that information becomes part of your credit report. Your accounts are reported to the credit bureaus regularly as far as your outstanding balance, the amount of your monthly payments, and a history of any late payments on each account.
The really scary part of this is the many reports and studies which state that anywhere from 35% to one report that claimed 70% or more of the information maintained by the credit bureaus is INACCURATE to some degree. To a certain degree, some could argue that this could be expected since the credit bureaus are maintaining data on hundreds of millions of individuals and businesses, which amounts to a staggering amount of data to keep track of. Yet the reported inaccuracies are disturbing.
Who is responsible for ensuring that the data maintained by the credit bureaus on you is accurate? You, and only you, and that “quality control” does not happen automatically.
Why should you care? Having inaccurate information in your credit report can affect many aspects of your life. It will have a major impact on your ability to get a mortgage at a decent interest rate, your ability to get a car loan, even your ability to open a new account with a department store or get a Visa or Mastercard. These days, many employers are running credit checks on employee candidates, and part of the hiring decision process hinges in part on the applicant’s credit report.
Another reason to periodically check your credit report is because of the new “high tech crime” of identity theft. Someone can steal your identity easier than you may think, open a ton of credit card accounts in your name, charge them to the hilt, then disappear from the face of the earth. And then YOU are stuck with months and even YEARS of battles to document that this person was not you, while all during the process your credit report is so bad that merchants may not even take CASH from you for a purchase.
You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from the credit bureaus any time you have been denied credit. You are also entitled to a free copy of your report once a year, which is strongly recommended. Review it in detail, and call the credit bureau if you do not understand it. They are obligated by law to help you understand the information there.
If you find errors or inaccuracies, by all means write a dispute letter. Keep records of all your correspondence with the credit bureaus. They are obligated by law to follow up on disputed information and to correct it if it is wrong. They do this by contacting the merchant or vendor who reported the information, and if that merchant cannot verify the information as being accurate, then it must be removed.
In summary, get a copy of your credit report from all three of the major credit bureaus, and do it today. Chances are better than good that you will find errors on it, and the sooner you get those errors corrected, the better off you will be.
About the Author: Jon is a computer engineer who maintains many websites to pass along his knowledge and findings. You can read more about Credit Bureaus and Your Credit Score, as well as the topic of Identity Theft at his web sites.