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Look at Your Credit Report

Residents of many states are eligible to receive two copies of their credit report from all three major credit reporting agencies every year.

Credit reporting agencies, or credit bureaus as they have been called, are simply repositories for information regarding your credit and how you pay your bills, as well as some additional personal and legal information.

Credit reporting agencies receive information about you, your debts, and your payment history from the various creditors with whom you have done business or who have extended credit to you. Some creditors may report to all three of the major agencies while some may choose to only report to one or two. Therefore, it is imperative that you keep abreast of what information is being reported about you to all three agencies.

Credit reporting agencies DO NOT make or dictate your credit or credit rating or any score that may be assigned to you. Your credit rating or credit score is purely and simply a documented record of your bill paying behavior over time which the credit reporting agencies keep together for the purpose of determining credit worthiness in the future.

There is a lot you can learn from looking at your credit report. If you would like to receive copies of all three credit reports, print the Credit Report Request Form (PDF) and send a copy to all three agencies listed, or call them and order it, or order it online.

Equifax Credit Information Services

PO Box 105496

Atlanta, GA 30348-5496

(770) 612-3200 (GA Residents) 800-997-2493

http://www.equifax.com

Experian

PO Box 9600

Allem, TX 75013

800-311-4769

http://www.experian.com

TransUnion Corporation Consumer Disclosure Center

PO Box 1000 Chester, PA 19022

http://www.transunion.com

When you receive your credit reports, you will also receive information explaining how to read and understand it. If you have further questions or need assistance with particular issues that need attention, that help is available through either the credit reporting agencies themselves or through the non-profit Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS).

Locate the CCCS office closest to you by visiting www.nfcc.org. These services offer assistance with credit report clarification at no or little charge.

Certified Credit Counselors will sit down with you and look over credit reports to help you understand, challenge, or resolve any concerns that may arise.

Before we leave this topic, be aware that there are many predators out there today who would love to steal your identity and therefore ruin your credit and potentially your life for a very long time. Identity thieves do not care about you or what you might suffer, but are only concerned about themselves and what they can gain by taking on the identity of individuals who are unaware of what is happening often until absolute credit chaos has broken out. There are many great tips for protecting yourself from identity theft at the Federal Trade Commission's website.

In addition, be aware of companies that promise to "fix" your credit or sell you a package to help you "fix" your own credit. The only way a consumer will ever "fix" his or her credit is by consistently making full and timely payments on all debts over time. Although this may take some time to accomplish, debts did not happen overnight and neither will the "fix". But, with time, consistency, determination, and wise planning, the "fix" will become reality.