Credit report repair and help: How to obtain free credit report

When you apply for a loan or credit, lenders/creditors will check your creditworthiness. The only way to do it is to pull your credit report from the credit bureaus. Your credit report provides them with the details of loans and credit you've applied for and how well you've managed them. To get an idea of what a credit report is all about, check out the topics below:


How to obtain a copy of your credit report

Under Federal laws, any individual can access a free copy of his credit report once a year from any or all of the credit bureaus. You can also obtain a free report if:
  • Your report is inaccurate detail due to fraud or identity theft
  • You're unemployed and are looking for a job within the next 60 days
  • If you've been turned down for a loan, you can get a free report within 60 days of denial
  • You're on welfare

In order to get a free credit report, you can call the toll-free number 1-877-322-8228, or you can request for free credit report at the central website set up by the credit bureaus. You can also fill out the Annual Credit Report Request form available at the website and mail it to:

Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

However, when you aren't able to get a free credit report, you need to buy it for $10.50. If you'd like to get your credit score, you'll have to purchase it, as free credit report scores are not available.

Whether you get a free credit report or pay for it, you'll have to provide personal and financial details to the bureaus. Once you provide the details, it'll take 15 days to get the report. If you request your credit report online, you will be able to access it instantly.

What your credit report includes

Your credit report comprises of 4 sections including the personal and financial information your creditors report to the bureaus. The sections are given below:
  1. Personal Information: This includes -
    • Your name, address & contact number
    • Social security number
    • Your date of birth
    • Current and previous employers' names
  2. Tradelines: This section includes -
    • The types of credit accounts or loans you have
    • The date when you opened the account
    • Credit limit or loan amount
    • Your account balance Account Status (open, inactive, closed, paid)
    • Payment history (late payments, default, charge off etc)
  3. Inquiries: This is the list of the creditors, lenders, and anyone else who has accessed your credit report so far. Inquiries include -
    • Soft inquiry (involuntary): This occurs when you check your report/credit history or when the lender/creditor checks your report for promotional purposes.
    • Hard inquiry (voluntary): This occurs when lenders or creditors pull your report when you apply for loans or credit.

    Only hard inquiries are shown to lenders when they order a copy of your report. Soft inquires are shown when you ask for your credit report.

  4. Public records and collections: This includes -
    • Liens, judgments, foreclosure, and bankruptcies
    • Wage garnishments
    • Reports from State and County courts
    • Collection accounts along with the name and contact details of the CA

How to read a credit report

When you start checking your credit report, you'll come across the 4 sections stated above. Only 2 sections - Tradelines and Inquiries should be read with the alphanumeric codes provided by the credit bureaus.

How to read credit report tradelines
You'll find a letter beside each tradeline or credit account stating your relationship to that account. Here's what some of the letters mean: J = Joint, I = Individual, A = authorized User, C = Co-maker, T = Terminated

When looking at the types of credit accounts, the letters mean:

O = Open account, R = revolving account and I = Installment account.

Also, there are numbers which indicate your account payment status:
0 = Approved but not yet used or too new to rate
1 = Paid as agreed
2 = Past due for 30 days or more
3 = Past due for 60 days or more
4 = Past due for 90 days or more
5 = In collection or past due for 120 days or more
7 = Making regular payments
8 = Repossession
9 = Charge off

There are also combinations like:
O1 = Paid as agreed open account
R1 = Paid as agreed revolving account.

How to read your credit report inquiries
Let's consider the codes used by Equifax:

PRM = You have been pre-approved by a creditor
AM or AR = Your creditor has pulled credit report to check if there's any change in your financial situation.

How to dispute a credit report - Credit report repair

Credit report repair or credit report help involves finding ways to fix a bad credit report that has resulted from negative or inaccurate listings. In order to remove these errors and fix your credit report, you need to send a certified letter to the bureaus and the financial institution that provided the information, and ask for credit report help.

You need to support your claim with copies of your billing statements or cancelled checks, a copy of your credit report, and a return receipt request with the certified letter. This will provide the credit bureau with evidence of the dispute. Make sure you keep a copy of everything you send to either the creditor, collection agency, or credit bureau in a safe place.

The credit bureaus take 30 days to investigate any inaccurate information. The bureaus may even send you a free credit report if there has been any change to it after they have fixed any errors.

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