What is a Credit Report?

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Equifax is one of the leading credit reporting agencies in the United States -- there are two others. Each maintains information about you and your credit history. This information is gathered on an ongoing basis from many sources that have extended you credit.

Lenders, employers, landlords, and other service providers buy that information in the form of a credit report to help them decide whether to approve your application for a loan, credit card, job, or housing, or to offer you a product or service at a particular rate.

Because your credit file changes constantly, it's important that you review your information regularly to check its accuracy.

What Information is Included in Your Credit Report?

Personal information. Compiled from credit applications you've filled out, this information normally includes your name, current and recent addresses, Social Security Number, date of birth, and current and previous employers.

Credit history. The bulk of your credit report consists of details about credit accounts that were opened in your name or that list you as an authorized user (such as a spouse's credit card). Account details, which are supplied by creditors with which you have an account, include the date the account was opened, the credit limit or amount of the loan, the payment terms, the balance, and a history that shows whether or not you've paid the account on time. Closed or inactive accounts, depending on the manner in which they were paid, stay on your report for 7 to 11 years from the date of their last activity.

Credit Report Inquiries. Credit reporting agencies record an inquiry whenever your credit report is shown to another party, such as a lender, service provider, landlord, or insurer. Inquiries remain on your credit report for up to two years.

Public records. Matters of public record obtained from government sources such as courts of law -- including liens, bankruptcies, and overdue child support -- may appear on your credit report. Most public record information stays on your credit report for 7 years.

What is Not Included in Your Credit Report?

A credit report does not include information about your checking or savings accounts, bankruptcies that are more than 10 years old, charged-off or debts placed for collection that are more than seven years old, gender, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, medical history, or criminal records. Your credit score is generated by information on your credit report, but is not part of the report itself.

Who Can Look at Your Credit Report?

Anyone with what is considered a permissible purpose can look at your report. These companies, groups, and individuals include:

  • Potential lenders
  • Landlords
  • Insurance companies
  • Employers and potential employers (usually only with your written consent)
  • Companies you allow to monitor your credit report for signs of identity theft
  • Some groups considering your application for a government license or benefit
  • A state or local child support enforcement agency
  • Any government agency (although they may be allowed to view only certain portions)
  • Someone who uses your credit report to provide a product or service you have requested
  • Someone that has your written authorization to obtain your credit report
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