Credit Life…After Death
By CHM for Elite Financial, LLC- California Credit Repair
The death of a loved one seems to linger on in more ways than one. As the passing of my father in October, we were filled with grief while rejoicing his life. In a continued effort of polishing his legacy, I have recently protected his credit identity by placing a security freeze or “Deceased Flag” on his credit profiles with the 3 major credit bureaus, Experian, Trans Union and Equifax.
Sorting through financial matters after the death of a spouse or loved one can be a challenging experience. When the heart is heavy with grief, the last thing you want to think about is protecting your loved one’s identity and forging a new credit life of your own. But, alas, this too shall pass…
By placing a freeze, I have secured his credit so as to prevent any would be thieves from stealing his identity and using it to create a new profile. Obituaries are the starting point for many identity thieves. You may have seen something like this being offered as a form of Credit Repair.
This is absolutely illegal and should never be done. In advertisements, you will see this marketed as “creating a new credit file overnight” and many times will include obtaining a new EIN # or CPN #. It is also offered as a shelf corporation or seasoned tradelines. Don’t fall for it. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Here is what I did to place the security freeze on his profile:
1) Type a letter containing all identifying information of the decease person. This includes
- Date of Birth
- Include your name and relationship
2) Attach copy of death certificate to the letter
3) Mail to 3 Major Credit Reporting Agencies
PO Box 9701 Allen, TX 75013
- Trans Union
PO Box 2000 Chester, PA 19022
PO Box 740256 Atlanta, GA 30374
4) Wait for response in mail (Should be within 45 days)
Now, getting into Joint Accounts, Authorized User accounts and handling other credit matters directly with banks can get a bit more extensive. I will write another article about this at a later date. If dealing with areas such as Probate, Estates, Trusts or Wills, I would suggest speaking with an attorney who specializes in this area. In addition to all this, community property states (such as California) can add a whole new layer of difficulty when sorting through this area and will require a whole new set of ideas that I will write about in the future.
If you think this article was helpful, sign up for our newsletter. It’s free and contains reliable content twice a month. Until next time, be smart with your credit and your loved ones.
The truth behind the numbers that help determine your financial fate.
1. “You may never know your real score.”
Roughly 200 million consumers have a FICO score, which ranges from 300 to 850 and is used by most lenders to determine whether to approve them for financing and at what terms. This score is based solely on the information in consumers’ credit reports. While consumers can check their generic FICO score, which weighs how well they have been managing their credit, it’s unlikely they’ll ever know the exact score a lender sees when they apply for credit.
More than 45 FICO scores are available to lenders, says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com, a credit monitoring site, and a former manager at FICO. There are FICO scores that assign more weight to certain characteristics, such as borrowers’ credit card activity, or history with car loans, mortgages or installment loans (that include furniture and jewelry payment plans). Car loan lenders, for instance, often pull a FICO auto score which weighs more heavily a borrower’s past car loan activity. Even if they have a stellar generic score, their auto score can be lower if they missed a car loan payment or never had a car loan, which could leave them with a higher interest rate than expected, says Barry Paperno, a credit expert at Credit.com, which tracks consumer credit issues, and a former manager at FICO.
For its part, FICO says its generic score is the most prevalent, and that all its scores use that model as their foundation. The company created the industry scores at the request of the lenders, says Anthony Sprauve, a spokesman for myFICO.com, the consumer division of FICO.
Consumers, for their part, are often left in the dark as to what score lenders have used to come to their decision — unless they’re rejected for a loan or given a rate that’s higher than what the lender advertises. One year ago, a rule that stems from the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul kicked in requiring lenders to automatically present the score they pulled on these borrowers.
2. “Lenders aren’t placing full faith in us.”
Large lenders are increasingly going beyond FICO scores to determine a potential borrower’s creditworthiness. Indeed, credit bureau Experian (which has created scores that compete with FICO) reports that roughly 80% of large banks and lenders use their own custom scores; they incorporate applicants’ credit reports from the three major bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion (just like the FICO score). But they also take into account other factors, such as applicants’ income, assets, chances of filing for bankruptcy, and the likelihood they’ll generate loan revenue for the bank, says Ulzheimer.
While large lenders have used this strategy for years, experts say the practice is becoming more widespread. The concern is that by itself FICO cannot display the full potential risk of a borrower, says Frank Donnelly, president of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Washington, D.C. But by confirming that borrowers’ have enough cash reserves or assets to weather a sudden job loss, for example, lenders lower the chances that they won’t repay their debts. “They’re saying let’s not put full trust in this — let’s back it up with other evidence,” says Martha Doran, professor emeritus of accounting at San Diego State University, who studies credit scores.
FICO says it agrees with lenders’ strategy. “Any lender naturally would want other information to address ability to pay and other factors in making their lending decision,” says Sprauve.
Consumers could feel the impact. A high FICO score might not guarantee that they get approved for the loan, or get it at the terms they prefer, if the lender discovers an otherwise unfavorable trait that’s not listed on a traditional credit report. On the flip side, consumers with mediocre FICO scores could end up in better terms with a lender than they expected if positive information is discovered through the lender’s independent credit research.
3. “We’re multiplying.”
Consumers can now order their credit scores from more than 20 web sites, up from around five just a few years ago, at a cost of $7 to $20. But while consumers tend to think of one, uniform credit score, there are several types of scores, each of which relies on its own mix of payment history, credit applications, debt and other factors. Beyond FICO, there’s the VantageScore, which was created by the three largest credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion; each of those has at least one score of its own as well. But while lenders have access to different scores, FICO remains the industry standard. It’s used in 90% of lending decisions, according to CEB TowerGroup, a financial services research firm.
For consumers, the sale of other scores can lead to confusion. While many of the scores currently for sale rely on similar sets of data, there can be significant differences. VantageScore ranges from 501 to 990, while FICO scores range from 300 to 850. Others add extra information. For example, in 2010, Experian started factoring in data about on-time rental payments in some renters’ credit reports, data that would impact a VantageScore from that bureau, although a VantageScore from another bureau would not take that into account. Jeff Richardson, a spokesman for VantageScore, says that more competition has led to “more accurate scoring methodologies and more attention to consumer education.”
The credit bureaus say that most lenders don’t rely on just one credit score. “It’s a competitive marketplace and different lenders choose which credit score they prefer to use for various reasons,” says Daryl Toor, a spokesman for Equifax. Separately, they say some of their scores can provide educational value to borrowers. Michael Troncale, a spokesman for Experian, says the bureau’s PLUS score, which ranges from 330 to 830, “helps consumers understand their credit worthiness.”
4. “Our power is greater than you may think.”
When Dan Belanger tried to lease a condominium in Grand Rapids, Mich., a year ago, he provided past tax returns and bank statements to prove he could afford the place. To his surprise, his realtor told him he was rejected — because of his poor credit score. Belanger, who owns an automated data collection firm, says he offered to pay 12 months of rent before moving in to no avail. “It didn’t matter–I was pegged a risk because of my credit history,” he says.
A poor credit score can threaten much more than a consumer’s shot at new credit. Low scores prevent consumers from getting a mortgage and from renting in many cases. Home and car insurers often consult “credit-based insurance scores,” which include the applicant or policyholder’s credit score as well as other factors like their past claims and location. These scores help determine whether to approve a client and what premiums to charge. J.B. Hancock, of Chicago, says her car insurer raised her premiums 33% after her credit score dropped roughly six points to 811, and that the company didn’t allow for any negotiation on the price hike.
Loretta Worters, a vice president with the Insurance Information Institute, says insurers rely on a variety of information to determine coverage and premiums. She says insurers consider only those items from credit reports that are relevant to insurance loss potential.
5. “We can wreck your career.”
Credit reports, which determine borrowers’ credit scores, are also the new resume, used by many employers to help determine whether to hire an applicant. Some 47% of employers report doing credit checks for some or all job candidates, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
The assumption, experts say, is that a bad credit report might help flag poor work habits and decision-making, and even general untrustworthiness. Some research seems to back employers’ fears: Nearly one third of employees with self-reported credit problems engaged in “counterproductive work behavior,” such as theft or accepting bribes, compared to about 18% of employees without financial problems, according to a 2008 academic study.
Consumer advocates argue that the credit check serves as one more setback for the unemployed. To earn extra income while in retirement, Penny Fox, 68, applied for an insurance sales position at a large health insurer one month ago. Fox, who’s based in Phoenix, Ariz., has more than 30 years experience in the field, but was rejected for the position after the employer discovered her poor credit. Fox recently lost a home to foreclosure and fell behind on credit card payments. “It’s like a house of cards — I’m caught in it,” she says.
The tide could be shifting. At least seven states prohibit companies from doing credit checks on many applicants, and similar bills are pending in another 20 states and Washington D.C. Separately, the latest SHRM report released this month shows that fewer employers are conducting credit checks than two years ago and 80% of employers who did said they hired a job candidate with negative information on their credit report.
5 more items to cover from original article will be posted next…
By ANNAMARIA ANDRIOTIS
Imagine getting denied a credit card because someone else is on your credit report. I’m not talking about identity theft. I’m talking about a case of blended credit reports.
The Columbia Dispatch found that 1 in 17 consumer complaints (of 21,500) in 2009 to the Federal Trade Commission and 1 in 12 complaints (of 1,842) in 2009 and 2010 to state attorneys general involved the consumer’s credit report being mixed with another person’s.
The news report illustrated the mix-up by offering three tales of financial identity confusion.
One Ohio woman’s credit report contained the bad credit of a woman living in Utah. Another found her daughter’s poor credit history on her own report. And one lady named Brenda Campbell almost had her wages garnished because two other Brenda Campbells were on her credit report.
At this point, I’d normally say, pull your credit report and make sure everything on it is correct. (You’re entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com.)
The report you pull will be based off your name, date of birth, Social Security number and current address. However, lenders often use only one or two of those identifying features to pull a credit report.
That means if a creditor pulls your credit report using your name and date of birth, there’s a possibility someone else shares those features and their report will be combined with yours. In other cases, Social Security numbers or names just have to be similar for the mistake to occur.
This kind of botch typically happens to people who share the same or similar names and often are in the same family, says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com.
To help the credit bureaus keep records straight, make sure to fill in your credit application with complete information, he says. Don’t forget the Jr. or Sr. and/or an apartment number, for example.
If the blunder does happen, Ulzheimer recommends disputing the process manually. Talk to someone at each credit bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax and Experian — and have them contact the lender of the disputed item. (Each bureau has a dedicated department for mixed files, which is separate from departments that handle run-of-the-mill credit report errors.)
(Of course, this is easier said than done as the Columbia Dispatch article showed the difficulties the three ladies had correcting their reports. If you run into a brick wall, consider a consumer-law attorney.)
“The good news is once something is identified as not belonging to a consumer, there is a way to red flag it, so it won’t happen again,” Ulzheimer says. “It’s a permanent fix.”
What’s your worst/most unusual credit report problem? How did you resolve it?
By Janna Herron · Bankrate.com
|TWELVE STEPS TO FINANCIAL SUCCESS|
|A new year typically brings with it a renewed commitment to become more financially stable. Toward that end, the NFCC offers the following 12-step formula to financial success:
How Credit Inquiries Impact Your FICO Score
It’s no secret that FICO scores and other credit risk scores consider credit inquiries when calculating your credit scores. A credit inquiry, if you are not familiar with it, is a record of who pulled your credit report and on what date.
If you want to bone up on inquiries you can do so here. I wrote that article for Mint a couple of years ago and the content is still accurate today.
When it comes to credit applications, many consumers are worried that by applying for credit they might lower their scores. That is certainly a possibility. Credit inquiries can lower your FICO scores. Notice I used the word “can” and not the word “will.”
The True Impact of an Inquiry
Before you choose to not apply for whatever it is you’re applying for, consider the fact that inquiries have a marginal, at best, impact on your credit scores.
Further, just because an inquiry causes your score to go down it may not cause it to go down enough to change any lender’s mind. Going from FICO 790 to FICO 786 because of new inquiries is likely going to be an irrelevant change when it comes to your credit application.
You’ll also want to keep in mind that the majority of credit applications result in one new inquiry on one of your three credit reports.
Applying for a new credit card doesn’t mean all three of your credit reports are being accessed. Only one is going to be pulled so the new inquiry will only appear on that particular credit report. That means your FICO scores at the other two credit bureaus are not impacted at all.
The only exception to this rule is a mortgage application where the lender or broker will likely pull all three of your credit reports.
The Grand Scheme
Something else to keep in mind…credit inquiries really aren’t terribly important in the grand scheme of things. Inquiries account for up to 10% of the points in your FICO scores. When it comes to pieces of the FICO score pie, it’s the smallest piece. The age of your credit report is more important than your inquiries.
FICO just released some data quantifying the true impact of inquiries to their scores. 57% of consumers are getting the maximum number of points from the inquiry category, which means inquiries are not lowering their scores at all. Inquiries are one of the top four reasons your FICO scores aren’t higher only 11% of the time.
And finally, only 4% of consumers lose more than 20 points in their FICO score because of inquiries. According to Frederic Huynh, one of FICO’s credit score scientists, “The bottom line is that I would not characterize inquiries as being a very important score factor relative to other predictors.”
Bigger Fish to Fry
If you’re concerned about your FICO scores then there are certainly bigger fish to fry than inquires. Negative information and paying your bills on time makes up a 35% piece of the pie. The various debt related measurements account for 30%. How long you’ve had credit is worth 15%. And, the diversity of account types accounts for 10% of the score points.
Keep in mind that when you pull your own credit report through sites like www.annualcreditreport.com, the inquiry has no impact on your scores. And, if you subscribe to a credit monitoring service or choose to purchase your credit reports through any of the retail websites, those inquiries also do not impact your scores.
By John Ulzheimer for Mint.Com
Many consumers go beyond getting their free annual credit report from the nationwide credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. These consumers pay for monthly subscriptions to a credit monitoring service with the goal of knowing their credit score at any point in time and receiving alerts when someone uses their personal information or accesses their credit history. It takes many people by surprise when they purchase credit scores just before applying for credit only to find the lender’s credit score disclosure does not match. Why is that the case, and what can you do?
What Credit Scores Tell Consumers and Lenders
Credit monitoring services and nationwide credit reporting agencies make money by selling credit scores to consumers, lenders and other businesses that use credit scores for decision-making. You, as a buyer, borrower or consumer, can buy educational credit scores from a credit monitoring service. Educational credit scores help you prepare to apply for loans, manage your debts and eliminate fraud or identity theft. Mortgage lenders, auto loan companies, credit card providers, insurance companies, landlords and employers buy credit scores from credit reporting agencies. Credit scores help them determine if you will pay your bill on time, in full, every month; predict if and when you might fall delinquent on your accounts; or evaluate if and when you are likely to default on your credit obligations. Whatever they’re being used for, credit scores should be based on the same information for both lender and customer, so why are scores from different sources so different? Two reasons credit scores differ are discrepancies in reporting methods and different scoring models.
Issues with Reporting Methods
Common discrepancies in reporting methods include:
- Consistency – not all data furnishers give information to all credit reporting agencies.
- Timing – data furnishers may provide the same information to all agencies but at different time schedules.
- Accuracy – changing personal information, i.e. names or addresses, has to be matched to the correct credit file.
- Privacy – Credit reporting agencies do not cross-share details on inquiries and information with each other.
Lenders and other creditors can choose what information to report, when to report it and which agencies to report to. Some lenders report monthly to all three agencies. Other creditors, like collection agencies, may report quarterly or only when there is activity on your account. Some agencies only report to a single credit reporting agency. A one-week difference in reporting information to the agencies could make a difference in your score from each one. Since reporting agencies do not cross share information with each other, the report and score you buy may not contain the same information that the lender report and score contains.
Each credit reporting or monitoring agency uses a different method to calculate your score. They base these calculations on complex mathematics, statistical or algorithmic models. Scoring models are proprietary systems and are protected by trademarks, patents and copyrights.
There are three types of credit scores that credit providers purchase:
- Generic scores – predict general payment performance
- Industry scores – predict performance on specific type of credit
- Custom scores – predict performance by company’s customer base
Generic credit scores are used by credit monitoring services to educate you, the consumer. You can use a credit monitoring service to learn how to get your score from what it is today to where you need it to be in the future. You can also use this service find out how late payments, opening new accounts or paying off debts may change your scores over time. Again, these are educational items and there is no guarantee you will achieve a certain score at any time.
Industry credit scores tell, for example, car lenders how you have paid your car loan, but that score may be different from a mortgage or credit card score. If you have had an automobile repossession, your auto industry score may be low in comparison to your mortgage industry score if you have never had mortgage delinquencies. Lenders may have their own in-house system to calculate a custom score based on their specific credit products and customer base. These scores often rank you in comparison to other customers and may work more like a grading curve than a general purpose credit score.
Take an Active Role in Providing Your Own Credit Information
You cannot control what credit scores you or a lender will get at any time, but you can know what information is in your credit file and keep it up to date. Make sure your name, address, birth date, Social Security number and employment information are current and correct. If you have a common name make sure other people’s information is not in your credit report. If you have received collection agency notices, check for reporting with the original creditor. Duplicate items can affect your credit score. When you correct or dispute an item, make sure you do it with all three bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
The Bottom Line
Finally, educate yourself about the different types of credit scores, credit reporting agencies and credit monitoring services in the market. Visit their websites to learn about their scores and services. Here is a list of providers most often used by consumers and industry.
|CreditXpert Score||Affinion||www.privacyguard.com www.identitysecure.com|
|Experian PLUS Score||Experian||www.experian.com www.freecreditscore.com www.freecreditreport.com www.familysecure.com|
|Equifax Credit Score||Equifax||www.equifax.com|
|FICO Score||EquifaxFICO||www.equifax.com www.myfico.com|
|VantageScore||TransUnionVertrue||www.transunion.com www.truecredit.com www.privacymatters.com
Read more @:sfgatedotcom
College and Your Credit
Here’s a great article on college and credit. Just in time for the new school year!
Life After High School: Credit Lessons They Won’t Teach You in College
Graduation season is just around the corner— a time when high school seniors across the country will walk down the aisle to accept their diplomas and officially enter the world of adulthood. Many of these smart young adults will spend the next four plus years in college, working hard to earn a degree and all the benefits that a bright and successful future has to offer.
Every year I make it a point to speak with high school seniors heading off to college, and every year my message remains the same. In school, you can screw up on a test and if you study hard and focus, you can make up for it on the next test. If you screw up on a mid-term, you can study harder and make up for it on the final.
But in the financial/credit world if you screw up, it’s not a quick and easy fix and it can end up costing you for years to come. Unfortunately, Credit 101 isn’t a course you’ll find in your college curriculum, which is why my goal here is to empower you with the knowledge and knowhow to avoid these costly mistakes. Without further ado, here’s are a few of the most important credit lessons I think every high school senior should know before heading off to college.
I. Laws in place to protect students from predatory marketing
In the past, college campuses and college students specifically were fair game for credit card companies. Credit card companies were notorious for targeting college students with aggressive marketing tactics, making it nearly impossible to walk around a college campus without being solicited to apply for a credit card in exchange for free “swag.” This swag was usually some type of college themed marketing freebie used to entice students to apply for a new credit card.
To add insult to injury, these credit card offers were insanely easy to qualify for – if you had a pulse and were currently enrolled as a student, there was a pretty good chance you’d qualify. No job? No income? No problem! Predatory credit card marketing practices and college campuses went hand in hand and students were considered fair game.
Credit card companies are smart. They saw the future potential for college students to become lifelong customers — especially if they could convince you to sign up and become the first credit card in your wallet. Afterall, you’re working hard for that bright and successful future – a future with lots of potential, a future with a great job and an even better paycheck, the perfect customer with which to build a lifelong financial relationship.
Thankfully, the rules have changed and with the new Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (informally referred to as the “CARD Act”) now in place, many of these older predatory practices are now illegal or restricted. To protect students and consumers under the age of 21, credit card issuers must now:
- Obtain proof of income before issuing a credit card to consumers under 21 years of age. If you don’t have an income, a credit card co-signer is required in order for the application to be approved.
- Obtain prior consent before sending pre-approved credit card offers to anyone under the age of 21.
- Obtain written permission to increase credit limits on accounts with co-signers for accountholders under the age of 21.
- Cease all predatory lending practices and aggressive marketing tactics on or near college campuses.
II. Avoiding credit card company traps and marketing even with CARD Act regulations
The CARD Act has made great strides in protecting students from predatory credit card practices. Still, young people have to watch out for remaining credit card traps. The most important advice I can give is that you read and fully understand the terms and conditions before you apply for a card. Here are a couple of the most important things to watch out for:
- Introductory teaser rates. Don’t be fooled by the 0% introductory teaser incentives. These offers can be great deals but introductory rates are temporary and you’ll want to pay close attention to the ongoing rate after the intro period expires.
- Annual fees. Many cards, especially those that offer rewards or cash back incentives, also include annual fees. In many cases the annual fee is waived the first year but it’ll kick in every year thereafter so it’s something to pay attention to, especially when there are a number of other credit cards on the market that don’t carry an annual fee. Be aware of all possible credit card fees before you make a selection.
- Prepaid debit cards vs. credit cards. Prepaid cards have grown in popularity, especially with college students. Be aware that prepaid cards of any variety are not credit cards. Often these cards are marketed as a safe way for students to build and establish credit but the truth is that they do no such thing because like debit cards, prepaid cards are not reported to your credit reports.
III. Building credit in college
Another question that almost every student faces is; “How do I get credit when everyone wants to see how I’ve managed?” You actually have a few pretty decent options:
- Start with a secured credit card. A secured card works just like a regular credit card except for the fact that the credit limit is backed or “secured” by a cash deposit that you make with a bank in exchange for the card. For example, if you opened a secured credit card with a $500 cash deposit, the bank would issue a credit card with a $500 credit limit. The drawbacks to secured cards are their low credit limits and fairly high interest rates. Your goal should be to manage the account wisely in order to build and establish credit, and then upgrade and move on to a traditional credit card. And, if possible, always pay your bill in full each month to avoid interest costs.
- Become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card. As an authorized user you get a credit card with your name, granting you full “authorization” to use the card just like the primary cardholder. When someone adds you as an authorized user on their credit card, you essentially get all of the benefits of the primary cardholder but without any of the liability. You’re not responsible for the monthly payment and you have no obligation to pay the bill. Authorized users benefit from the primary cardholder’s credit history because credit card issuers will typically report the account to the authorized user’s credit reports.
If the account is well-established, with a long standing history of on time payments and has a low balance in relation to the credit limit, your credit and credit scores will surely benefit as a result. The opposite is also true. If the primary cardholder misses a payment or maxes out the credit limit, your credit will suffer too. If things go awry with the primary cardholder’s management of the account you can have your name removed from the account and it will then be removed from your credit reports. Being an authorized user on a credit card is like having a credit card with training wheels.
- Get a Co-Signer to vouch for you. A co-signer is someone who signs on a loan with you, accepting equal liability for the loan on your behalf. If you’re unable to make a payment, the co-signer is liable, right along with you. This means that if you miss a payment or default on the loan, both you and the co-signer’s credit will suffer. I’m including this option so that you know it exists but it’s not an option I like and it’s one I’d strongly advise against. Simply put, there are other, smarter options that work just as well — without the drawbacks and unnecessary risk for the co-signer.
IV. How to avoid leaving college with massive credit card debt
This is my final piece of advice and it’s actually quite simple. It’s sticking to it that’s the tricky part. If you want to avoid leaving college with massive amounts of credit card debt all you have to do is watch your credit card spending and only spend what you can comfortably afford to pay off in full at the end of each month when the bill arrives. If you follow this one simple rule, credit card debt is a problem you’ll never have to worry about.
Credit should not be feared and those who demonize credit cards and banks are ignoring the fact that when we get into debt it’s a voluntary act. Further, we need access to competitively priced credit, including credit cards. They provide for portable capacity and offer significant protections against fraud thanks to Federal law.
The golden rule is to always remember to use credit cards wisely. Manage the account responsibly by making every payment on time and never carrying a balance from one month to the next. Your efforts will be rewarded and your credit scores will shine.
Article by John Ulzheimer
Read a Report
Once you’ve obtained a copy of your credit report, you’ll be able to see what your creditors are saying about you. There’s just one problem — credit reports can be a little confusing. Never fear! Elite Financial, LLC is here to help. In the following paragraphs you’ll find a step-by-step explanation of how to read and interpret each section of your credit report.
Here you’ll find identifying information like your:
- current address
- social security number
- date of birth
- spouse’s name (if applicable)
Easy, right? But don’t just skim over this section. Read all the entries to make sure everything is correct. One bad piece of information and the credit history listed on your report could be wrong.
Credit History Section
This is the meat of the report. It contains a list of your open and paid credit accounts and indicates any late payments reported by your creditors. Although it may seem a little tedious, it’s essential that you read through this section very thoroughly. If you find any information that is incorrect or accounts that don’t belong to you, you’ll need to submit a dispute letter to the credit-reporting agency.
The basic format for the credit history section is as follows:
- Company Name – identifies the company that is reporting the information.
- Account Number – lists your account number with the company.
- Whose Account- Indicates who is responsible for the account and the type of participation you have with the account. Abbreviations may vary depending on the reporting agency but here are some of the most common:
- I – Individual
- U – Undesignated
- J – Joint
- A – Authorized User
- M – Maker
- T – Terminated
- C – Co-maker/Co-signer
- S – Shared
- Date Opened – This is the month and year you opened the account with the credit grantor.
- Months Reviewed – Lists the number of months the account history has been reported.
- Last Activity – Indicates the date of the last activity on the account. This may be the date of your last payment or last charge.
- High Credit – Represents the highest amount charged or the credit limit. If the account is an installment loan, the original loan amount will be listed.
- Terms – For installment loans, the number of installments may be listed or the amount of the monthly payments. For revolving accounts, this column is often left blank.
- Balance – Indicates the amount owed on the account at the time it was reported.
- Past Due – This column lists any amount past due at the time the information was reported.
- Status- A combination of letters and numbers are used to indicate the type of account of the timeliness of payment.Abbreviations for the type of account are as follows:
- O – Open
- R – Revolving
- I – Installment
- Abbreviations for Timeliness of Payment varies among agencies. Numbers are used to represent how current you are in your payments. Current or paid as agreed is usually represented by 0 or 1. Larger numbers (up to 9) indicate that an account is past due.
- Date Reported – Indicates the last time information on this account was updated by your creditor.
Collection Accounts Section
If you’ve had any accounts referred to collection agencies in the last seven years, this is where they will be reported. The name of the collection agency will be listed along with the amount you owe and, in some cases, their contact information. If a collection is listed on your report that doesn’t look familiar to you, contact the credit bureau and submit a dispute letter.
For your own piece of mind, you may also want to contact the collection agency (Or have Elite do it for you) to determine the nature of the account. Here’s why.
- You may find out that the collection account is NOT yours. Perhaps it belongs to someone whose name or social security number is very similar to yours. If this is the case, ask the collection agency to acknowledge this fact in writing. They should send a copy of the letter to you AND the credit reporting agency so that the mistaken information can be cleared from your report.
- You may find out that the collection account IS yours. If so, it is in your best interest to determine the accuracy of the amount of the collection account and make arrangements to satisfy your obligation as quickly as possible. Once the collection account has been paid, you should request a letter from the collection agency to this effect. Again, make sure the credit reporting agency gets a copy of the letter so that they can list the account as paid.
Courthouse Records Section
This section may also be referred to as Public Records. Here you’ll find a listing of public record items (obtained from local, state and federal courts) that reflect your history of meeting financial obligations. These include:
- Bankruptcy records
- Tax liens
- Collection accounts
- Overdue child support (in some states)
Look closely at all the information listed here. If anything is mistaken, contact the credit bureau and submit a dispute letter.
This section consists primarily of former addresses and past employers as reported by your creditors.
Contains a list of the businesses that have received your credit report in the last 24 months. If you find the names of businesses that sound unfamiliar, you should find out who they are and why they’re looking at your credit! The credit-reporting agency may be able to help you with contact information. Remember, only companies that have received your written authorization should be able to check your credit history.
Time information is retained
The length of time that information remains in your file varies.
- Credit and collection accounts will be reported for 7 years from the date of the last activity with the original creditor.
- If you’ve filed a Chapter 7 or Chapter 11 bankruptcy, this information will be reported for 10 years from the date filed.
- All other courthouse records will be reported for 7 years from date filed.
As always, contact our office for more information. 909-570-9048
Rep. Waters tackles mortgage woes created by medical debts
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., proposed legislation Friday that aims to improve Americans credit scores by ensuring any ‘paid medical debts’ are removed from a person’s credit report within 45 days.
While a delinquency tied to a medical bill may seem less serious than a mortgage default, lawmakers are upset with the practice of allowing late payments tied to medical debt to stick to a borrower’s credit report for an infinite period of time.
Waters believes the practice creates downward pressure on credit scores, freezing out access to mortgages and other lines of credit.
Waters’ bill – H.R. 1767 – is the sister legislation to Senate Bill 160 introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.
Waters and the bill’s co-sponsors also asked the Government Accountability office to review whether medical financing options provided to consumers are fair and transparent.
Source: Housing Wire