How Credit Reporting Works

Credit reporting agencies, also known as credit bureaus, gather detailed information about how consumers use credit. Businesses that grant credit regularly supply credit information to credit bureaus. Credit bureaus then compile this information into credit reports, which are sold to banks, credit card companies, retailers, and others who grant credit.

Your credit report helps others decide if you are a good credit risk. This information should be supplied only to those parties who have a legitimate interest in your credit affairs, including prospective employers, landlords, or insurance underwriters, as well as others who grant credit. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the federal statute that regulates credit bureaus, requires anyone who acquires your credit report to use it in a confidential manner.

The following information is most likely to appear in your credit report:

• Your name, address, social security number, and marital status. Your employer’s name and address, and an estimate of your income may also be included.
• A list of parties who have requested your credit history in the last six months.
• A list of the charge cards and mortgages you have, how long you’ve had them, and their repayment terms.
• The maximum you’re allowed to charge on each account; what you currently owe and when you last paid; how much is paid by the due date; the latest you’ve ever paid; and how many times you’ve been delinquent.
• Past accounts, paid in full, but are now closed.
• Repossessions, charge-offs for bills never paid, liens, bankruptcies, foreclosures, and court judgments against you for money owed.
• Who owes the debt — you alone, you and a joint borrower, or you as cosigner. (Debts that you co-sign become part of your credit history, the same as debts you incur yourself.)
• Bill disputes.

Negative information can be kept in your file only for a limited time. Under the law, delinquent payments can be reported for no more than 7 years and bankruptcies for no longer than 10 years.

© LPL Financial, created by Standard & Poors

Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Wealth Enhancement Advisory Services, a registered investment advisor.

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