By Beau Brincefield and Lisa Wells
The B.O.D. Report of the Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS®, March, 1992
There are as many different types of credit reports as there are different types of loans; however, the lender for whatever type of loan you apply (e.g. a mortgage loan, a car loan, or the issuance of a credit card), will probably obtain at least some credit information about you from one or more of the three main national consumer credit reporting agencies – TRW [now Experian – JCB], TransUnion, and CBI [now Equifax – JCB].
These companies obtain most of their information directly from commercial creditors (such as banks, mortgage companies’, department stores, and credit card companies) which provide the credit reporting agencies with monthly information regarding the payment of bills by their debtors. The credit reporting agencies are not required to verify the information thus received (and reported) by them.
Credit investigations for mortgage loans are normally more extensive than simply obtaining a credit report from one of the major credit reporting companies. Mortgage lenders typically contract with a separate credit investigation firm to do a more current, detailed, and comprehensive credit investigation on a mortgage loan applicant.
This investigation typically includes verifying and updating the information contained in the major credit reporting company’s report as well as making additional inquiries on other aspects of the applicants credit which may not be reported in the initial report.
Because of the enormous volume of credit information transmitted and compiled each month, any individual credit report might very well contain inaccurate or incomplete information. The burden falls on the consumer to determine if there are errors and to request them to be corrected.
The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act was adopted to protect consumers from the distribution of inaccurate reports. Pursuant to the Act, you have certain rights to compel the agencies to correct erroneous information.
The first step is to obtain a copy of your credit report. You can look in your telephone book for the name of the credit reporting agencies located in your area (see below for the Northern Virginia list), and then contact them to request information regarding your report. While they must provide you with the information contained in your report, credit reporting agencies are not required to give you a free copy of it; however, most of them will provide you with a copy of your report for a small fee.
If you have been denied credit and you request information about your report within 30 days after you receive notice of the denial, the credit reporting agency must provide you with a copy free of charge. (You may be asked to provide identification or to file a written request before receiving the report.)
In addition to providing you with the information contained in your report, the credit reporting agencies are required to tell you the names of the creditors who have requested your report during the past six months and the names of employers who have requested your report during the past two years.
Once you receive your report, if you find an error, you should notify the credit reporting agency in writing and include any documentation of the error. If the agency cannot confirm that the information in the report is true, then it is required to remove it from the report or revise it.
If the credit reporting agency does not agree that an error has been made, then you are entitled to submit a brief (approximately 100 words) explanation, which will be included as part of your report.
You then have 30 days to request the credit reporting agency to send the corrected report to any creditors who received the incorrect report during the past six months and to any employers who received it during the past two years. After 30 days, there is a charge for this service.
If you should have financial difficulties and fall behind on your bills, you should call all of your creditors immediately and arrange a repayment plan. It is important to prevent negative information from being provided to the reporting agencies because late payments will stay on your credit report for seven years, and bankruptcies will be listed for 10 years.
Trans Union Corporation
Silver Spring, Maryland
[Updated contact information:
Experian (formerly TRW)