Silence is never golden when it comes to your credit report. And just because you ignore it doesn’t mean it will go away or heal itself. You have to be engaged, plugged in, in control and informed to maximize your ability to change it for the better.

That process begins with you getting a copy of your credit file from the agencies that are oh so willing to give it out to everyone else it seems. This is a simple process that can be accomplished as easily as writing a letter and requesting it.

First figure out who has it. If you’re like most people it probably can be found at one and probably all three of the “Big Three” credit reporting agencies. They are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. There are several smaller local credit reporting agencies but most are connected with the Big Three.

The cost of your credit report varies from state to state and can be found at their respective web sites listed below as well as their addresses. It is usually $8.00 or less.

Experian www.experian.com

A copy of your credit report can be ordered by phone at 1-800-397-3742 and can be paid for by Visa or MasterCard. It will be mailed to you within 48 hours. You can also contact them by writing to:

Experian National Consumer Assistance Centre  P.O. Box 2104  Allen, TX 75013-2104

A printout form can be accessed at their web site.

You can also receive this report free if:

You have been denied credit, employment, insurance or rental housing based at least in part on info in your Experian credit report.

You’re a resident of Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey or Vermont.

You are unemployed, a victim of fraud or on welfare.

Note: they have however discontinued their voluntary program of a nationwide complimentary credit report each year.

Equifax www.equifax.com

Click on “order your credit profile online.”

You can receive a copy of your credit report:

On-line Visa or MasterCard  By phone 1-800-997-2493  By mail Check or money orderEquifax Information Service Center  P.O. Box 740241  Atlanta, Georgia 30374-0241TransUnion www.transunion.comOn-line Visa or MasterCard  By phone 1-800-997-2493  By mail Check or money order TransUnion Corporation  Consumer Disclosure Center  P.O. Box 390  Springfield, PA 19064-0390

This letter of request must include some necessary information or they won’t give you the file. They will want your full name including your middle name and be sure to include Jr. and Sr. and so forth when applicable. Also include your date of birth, SSN, current address and former address if you’ve not been at your current address for at least five years. TRW wants a list of your full addresses for the past five years. Include your spouses name if you’re married and your daytime and evening phone numbers with area codes. Also, send along a copy of a billing statement from a utility bill, your drivers license or any document that reflects your current name and address. Don’t forget to sign the letter so the credit bureau has your signature on file and they’ll want it for security purposes.

Would you rather have a ticket to be in the studio audience for the last Sienfeld show or a copy of your credit report?

Before you answer that let me tell you what’s in that little report. Besides the basic stuff you would expect it also contains (no big surprise here) your credit history. But what’s in that credit history may be a surprise.

  • Payment history on accounts that were reported to the credit reporting agency.
  • Name of the creditor and account/loan number.
  • Nature of the account (joint or individual)
  • Type of account/loan (revolving or installment, student loan, mortgage etc.)
  • Date account was opened or loan was established.
  • Credit limit on account/loan amount.

Current balance on account/loan. The dollar amount shown in this section of a person’s report reflects the account balance at the time the information was obtained. It does not reflect what has been paid on the account or charged on the account since that time.

Account payment history, including number of late payment and whether an account has been referred to collections or has been closed by the consumer or the creditor.

  • Date information on the account loan was reported.
  • Number of months for which information has been reported.
  • Amount of credit that has been extended to a consumer.
  • Whether the consumer is disputing information related to an account.

It may not be as entertaining as seinfeld but it’s a heck of a lot more important to you. Besides, the last show wasn’t that funny, except for the soup nazi of course.

Inquiries

Your credit report also contains an inquiry section listing all those creditors and others who have checked it. Some of the inquiries listed will be preceded by such abbreviations as AM, AR, and PRM. PRM indicates that the inquiry was made for promotional purposes such as a review or screening for a pre-approved credit card offer and such. AM stands for account monitoring and AR stands for account reviews, both of which mean that one of your creditors reviewed the info, perhaps to determine whether your line of credit should be increased or to cancel your credit card. This is an important section because lenders consider the number of credit-related inquiries to be an indicator of how much credit you are trying to obtain. They may conclude that you will not be a responsible user of credit if they see a lot of inquiries. Every time you apply for a credit card, a mortgage loan, a car loan or some other type of credit your credit record is likely to reflect it so use great discretion.

Public Record Information

This section of your credit report reflects credit-related events that are found in the public record, such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, judgements and tax liens. They also sometimes make note of convictions (And you thought nobody would find out about that little incident back in college.) And recently some states have begun to report child support delinquencies as well

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