Institute of Consumer
Financial Education
Institute of Consumer
Financial Education

About Credit Reporting Agencies

Excerpted from the Do-It-Yourself Credit File Correction Guide by Paul Richard and published by the Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE)

How To Obtain A Copy Of Your Credit File

What is a Credit Reporting Agency?
It's an organization, usually profit-driven, devoted to collecting and reporting credit information to subscribers - mostly area businesses, banks, etc. Think of it as a clearinghouse for information about your personal credit history and debt repayment practices. The major firms cover all fifty states. These agencies are highly computerized and have millions of files and millions of subscribers - mostly businesses - paying a monthly fee for this information reporting service All bureaus DO NOT contain the same data or necessarily all of your credit history.

What is a Credit Bureau?
It's a smaller version of a credit reporting agency. Credit Bureaus usually operate within a single state and often cover only one county. Others cover a multi-county area. Some also offer collection services in addition to background reports for potential employers etc.

What is a credit rating and where does it come from?
It is the rating given to an individual or business - by a previous lender - as a credit risk, based on past records of debt repayment, financial statements, employment and current financial status. Credit reporting agencies do not rate your credit, only those merchants who extend credit (to you) do the rating.

How do I obtain a copy of my credit file from each agency?
Call each one listed and ask for the consumer services department. Inquire about your credit file. They may ask you some personal information such as your social security number, mothers maiden name, etc. in order to access the proper file. If they have a file on you, ask how you go about obtaining a copy. It takes a written request and there is a service fee of up to $8 depending on where you live.
NOTE: Anyone denied credit based on information contained in a credit file must be notified says the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The company which denied you credit will tell you from what agency they obtained your credit report and how you can obtain a copy - free of charge if you request one within a reasonable time after receiving the denial letter. Send a copy of the denial letter with the request.

AnnualCreditReport.com

How do I obtain a copy of my credit file from each agency?
Call each one listed and ask for the consumer services department. Inquire about your credit file. They may ask you some personal information such as your social security number, mothers maiden name, etc. in order to access the proper file. If they have a file on you, ask how you go about obtaining a copy. It takes a written request and there is a service fee of up to $8 depending on where you live.
NOTE: Anyone denied credit based on information contained in a credit file must be notified says the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The company which denied you credit will tell you from what agency they obtained your credit report and how you can obtain a copy - free of charge if you request one within a reasonable time after receiving the denial letter. Send a copy of the denial letter with the request.

What is the next step?
In about ten days after you request it, your credit files will come by return mail. It will include instructions on how to read it and it will contain an explanation of all the symbols and abbreviations used in the report

What if need help?
Avoid any type of credit doctor, credit repair firm or service. Do-it-yourself instead. It is easy and inexpensive. Don't pay more than $10 which is the cost of the Institute of Consumer Financial Education's Do-It-Yourself Credit File Correction Guide. It has instructions, sample letters to smooth communications with the credit reporting agencies, credit file request forms and a listing of the major credit reporting agencies.

Credit File Request Form
Copy and use the Institute of Consumer Financial Education Credit File Request Form to request your credit files from the Experian (formerly TRW), Trans Union, Equifax and Check Approval systems that may have a file in your name. The addresses of the major credit bureaus and the telephone numbers of the Check Approval systems are after the form. Credit File Agencies Contact Information Use the contact information below to request your credit files. If you have been denied credit within 60 days or if you are going to pay for the report using a credit card.

AnnualCreditReport.com

Experian (formerly TRW)
PO Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013-2002
888-397-3742
Fees: $8-$9 or may be stipulated by state law

Equifax Credit Information Services
PO Box 105873
Atlanta, GA 30348
800-685-1111
Fees: $8-$9 or may be stipulated by state law

Trans Union
Consumer Relations Center
PO Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022
800-888-4213 OR 440-779-7200
Fees: $8-$9 or may be stipulated by state law

The three national credit bureaus offer a toll-free number enabling consumers to "opt out" of pre approved credit offers with just one phone call. 1-888-5-OPTOUT (888-567-8688).

Check Approval Systems

The companies listed below compile data on checks, both business and personal, processed through normal banks and credit unions.
Many financial institutions use the Shared Check Authorization Network (SCAN). Some of the firms also act as collection agents of an unpaid check for their subscribers.
Use the telephone numbers below to report the fraudulent use of your checks, or to request your file, IF you have been the victim of check forgery or have had non sufficient funds activity on your checking account(s).

ChexSystems - 1-800-428-9623
CheckRite - 1-800-766-2748
SCAN - 1-800-262-7771
TeleCheck - 1-800-710-9898
Equifax - 1-800-437-5120
Nat'l Processing - 1-800-526-5380

Revised/Updated March 2011