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Educational Blog in the Area of Family and Consumer Sciences for the Middle Peninsula


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Demystifying Credit Reports and FICO Credit Scores, Part I

Welcome! For those of you who are new to this site, this is an educational blog website in the areas of personal finance, health, nutrition, food safety, well water management, and other areas of Family and Consumer Sciences by yours truly, Glenn Sturm, the FCS agent serving the Middle Peninsula of Virginia. For those of you who are returning, hopefully you haven’t been waiting for the next post…it’s been a little while…sorry.

This is the first of a two-part segment on credit reports and FICO credit scores. Today we will discuss what’s on your credit report.

Most people are aware of what a credit report is – a detailed document of your credit history, typically from one of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. However, there are plenty of misconceptions about what exactly shows up on your report. Generally, there are four sets of information that make up your credit report: identification information, your credit accounts, inquiries, and your public record information.

Your identification information includes things such as your name, addresses, past addresses, a portion of your social security number, date of birth, spouses or co-applicants, and possibly certain employment information. While none of this information is used to determine your credit score, there is a lot of sensitive information. If you do choose to print or save your credit reports, be sure they aren’t easily accessible to others.

The largest portion of your credit report is usually your credit accounts. These can include a variety of different accounts such as credit cards, charge cards, auto loans, mortgages, and student loans to name a few. There is also quite a bit of information to go along with each of these accounts: including the creditor, account numbers, recent balances, when the account was opened, if the account is current, 30, 60, 90 or more days late. There may also be data about credit limits, high balances, and possibly even month-to-month data on balances, when payments were received, and the amounts paid each month.

Another section is your credit inquires. This section contains a list of everyone who has accessed your credit report in the last two years. Some of these can potentially have a negative impact on your credit score, while some have no impact at all. We’ll talk more about that next week!

The final section are your public records and collections. Credit bureaus collect public record information from state and county courts, including bankruptcies, foreclosures, and debts that have been sent to collections. Traditionally, your credit report also included civil judgements and tax liens, but recently credit bureaus have been moving to remove these from your credit report.

Need a copy of your credit report? Since the passage of the Fair and Accurate Transaction Act in 2003, consumers are able to get a free copy of their credit report, once per year, from each of the three major credit bureaus through annualcreditreport.com. This allows you the option to check one of these credit reports every four months to more regularly monitor your credit, and check for errors or possible cases of identity theft. If you need a reminder to periodically get a copy of your credit report, University of Wisconsin’s Extension has a great tool, linked in the text below! If you find any errors or accounts that do not belong to you, the Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, has a great step-by-step guide to help you dispute them, also in the text below.

That concludes this week’s discussion on credit reports, we’ll see you next week when we talk about FICO credit scores!