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Credit Reports

A credit report contains information on where you work and live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy. Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) gather this information and sell it to creditors, employers, insurers, and other businesses. The information may be used when you apply for credit, housing, insurance, or a job.

The most common type of CRA is the credit bureau. The three major national credit bureaus are:

Equifax: 1-800-685-1111
Experian: 1-888-397-3742
TransUnion: 1-800-916-8800

The Fair Credit Reporting Act controls how your credit history is kept, used and shared. It is designed to promote accuracy and ensure the privacy of the information in credit reports.

• Only people with a legitimate business need can get a copy of your report.

• An employer or a prospective employer can only get your report with your written consent.

• Creditors, employers, or insurers need your approval to get any medical information.

Negative information concerning your use of credit can be kept in your report for seven years. A bankruptcy can be kept for ten years. Information about a lawsuit or an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer.

Anyone who takes adverse action against you such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment in response to a credit report must give you the name, address, and telephone number of the CRA that provided the report.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you also have the right to:

• Know what is in your credit report, including medical information and, usually, the sources of the information.

• Get a free report if a company takes adverse action against you based on the report and you request your report within 60 days of receiving the notice of the action.

• One free report a year if you can prove that you are unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; if you are on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud. Otherwise a CRA may charge you $9 for a copy of your report.

Your Rights: Getting Credit

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act protects you when dealing with anyone who regularly offers credit, including banks, finance companies, stores, credit card companies and credit unions. When you apply for credit, a creditor may not:

• ask about or consider your sex, race, national origin or religion;

• ask about your marital status or your spouse, unless you are applying for a joint account or relying on your spouse’s income, or unless you live in a community property state (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Washington);

• ask about your plans to have or raise children;

• refuse to consider public assistance income or regularly received alimony or child support; or

• discount or refuse to consider income because of your sex or marital status or because it is from part-time work or retirement benefits.

You also have the right to:

• have credit in your birth name, your first name and your spouse’s last name, or your first name and a combined last name;

• have a co-signer other than your spouse if one is necessary;

• keep your own accounts after you change your name or marital status or retire, unless the creditor has evidence you are unable or unwilling to pay;

• know why a credit application is rejected; the creditor must give you the specific reasons or tell you of your right to find out the reasons if you ask within 60 days;

• have accounts shared with your spouse reported in both your names; and

• know how much it will cost to borrow money.

The Truth in Lending Act requires lenders to give you information on the cost and terms of credit so you can compare different offers. The total finance charge is a dollar amount that includes all interest and fees that must be paid to get a loan. The annual percentage rate (APR) is the rate of interest paid over the term of the loan.

Financial Institution Regulators

A number of Federal, state and local agencies regulate financial institutions. State chartered banks and trust companies that are members of the Federal Reserve System are covered by the Federal Reserve System. State chartered banks that are not members of the Federal Reserve System are regulated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. State chartered banks are also regulated by state banking authorities. Banks with National in the name or N.A. after the name are regulated by the Comptroller of the Currency, U.S. Department of the Treasury. Federal savings and loans and Federal savings banks are regulated by the Office of Thrift Supervision. Federally chartered credit unions are regulated by the National Credit Union Administration.



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