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It's Worth Your Time To Review What's In Your Credit File  

Revised 11/11
Maria Pippidis
FM-C- 08

A credit report or credit file is a picture of how much available credit a person has, to whom he owes outstanding loans, and how prompt he is about repaying his debts. Only federally regulated credit reporting agencies can prepare the reports, which are used by credit grantors to determine ability and willingness to repay a debt when someone applies for any type of loan or credit.


Credit reporting agencies receive factual information on a regular basis about a person’s payment history from credit card issuers, finance companies, department stores and any other issuers of credit, as well as information documented on public record. This information is compiled into a report called a credit file. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act mandates the length of time information is stored on file: Most negative information is stored for seven years, and a bankruptcy will remain on file for 10 years. There is no provision covering how long positive information will be stored. It is a good idea to review your credit file once a year to check the accuracy of the information reported.

The three primary credit reporting agencies in the United States that provide national credit reports are Experian, Equifax (ECIS) and Trans Union Corporation. There are also smaller, independent reporting agencies with strength in particular regions.

The FACTA Act of 2004 guaranteed a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three above mentioned credit reporting agencies through the Central Source. You can order all three at one time or order from each of the three companies at different times thereby checking on your information over time.

Request your Credit Report on the Internet

It is simple to get your reports. Go to https://www.annualcreditreport.com. You’ll need your social security number and knowledge of your accounts for identity verification. To assure that your credit file is disclosed only to you, the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies will authenticate your identity utilizing the personal identification information you provide on this site, including, but not limited to, your Social Security number, and then require that you answer certain questions.

For your protection, if your identity cannot be authenticated for online delivery of your credit report, you will receive further instructions on how to request your report for delivery by the U.S. Postal Service. Failure to authenticate for online delivery of your annual credit file disclosure is not an indicator of fraudulent activity or identity theft.

Request your Credit Report by Phone: Call 1-877-322-8228 to request your credit reports by phone. You will go through a simple verification process over the phone. Your reports will be mailed to you. Request your Credit Report by Mail You can request your credit report by mail by filling out the request form and mailing it to the address below. To get a copy of the request form click here.

The form can be mailed to: Annual Credit Report Request Service P.O. Box 105281 Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

How can I get my credit score?

You can purchase a credit score by contacting one of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies.

Equifax - www.equifax.com

Experian - www.experian.com

TransUnion - www.transunion.com

UD Cooperative Extension

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