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Personal Finance: Credit Reports

Free Annual Credit Reports

Books on Credit

Understanding Credit

Credit Bureau Information and Credit Freeze Information

Credit Freeze Information

Credit experts recommend that consumers freeze their credit to reduce their risk of becoming an identity theft victim. This has to be done individually with each of the “Big Three” credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), plus some experts also recommend doing a freeze with a lesser-known credit reporting agency called Innovis to “cover all the bases.” That means making 4 separate freeze requests per person or 8 requests for a couple.

By freezing your credit, you prevent potential creditors from accessing your credit file, thereby preventing identity thieves from opening accounts in your name. However, credit freezes will not deter non-credit related frauds such as tax refund identity theft and health insurance fraud. For that, consumers are simply told to “be vigilant.”

Credit freeze requests can be made online, by phone, or by certified U.S. mail. Expect to devote some time to this task. Below is contact information for each credit reporting agency for each method of contact to request a credit freeze:

Online

Equifax: https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp

Experian: https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html

TransUnion: https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/place-credit-freeze

Innovis: https://www.innovis.com/personal/securityFreeze

Telephone

Equifax: 800-685-1111

Experian: 888-397-3742

TransUnion: 888-909-8872

Innovis: 800-540-2505

U.S. Mail

Equifax: Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348

Experian: Experian, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion: TransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016

Innovis: Innovis Customer Assistance, P.O. Box 26, Pittsburgh, PA 15230-0026

The costs of security freezes vary from state to state. Fees may or may not be charged to add a credit freeze, temporarily

lift (thaw) a credit freeze (e.g., when you need to apply for a loan), and remove a credit freeze. Different fees for credit

freezes may also apply depending on whether someone is or is not a victim of identity theft.

For mailed security freeze requests, include the following information in a cover letter format:

  • Full name (with middle initial) and former name, if applicable
  • Current address and former addresses within the last five years
  • Social Security number
  • Full date of birth (month, day, year)
  • Signature
  • Photocopies of two forms of identification such as a government-issued identity card and proof of residence such as phone bill or utility company bill.

Credit Score Information

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR CREDIT SCORE

 In addition to the three national credit bureaus, there are credit-scoring companies. Fair, Isaac makes the FICO score, which is by far the most widely tested and used by creditors. You can purchase your score or learn more with scoring simulators at https://www.myfico.com. Scores can range from 300 to 850. The higher the score, the better the credit rating. Generally, any score above 700 indicates a good credit risk, and below 650 is a problem. Remember, you can work to improve your score, no matter how low it is right now.       

Reasons Your Score May Be Lowered

  • Derogatory public record (court record) or collections;
  • Delinquent payment on accounts;
  • Number of accounts with delinquency;
  • Time since delinquency paid up is too short;
  • Proportion of balances to credit limits is too high (maxed-out);
  • Too many new accounts or accounts are too new to rate;
  • Too many accounts from sub-prime lenders (like finance companies);
  • Too many inquiries in the last twelve months;
  • Length of positive credit history is too short, or no recent balances.

FICO Has Disclosed the General Structure of How Their Model Scores

35% = payment history (have you paid on time, especially over past two years)

30% = amounts owed (how much owed total, and how much in relation to credit limits)

15% = length of credit history (how long you’ve had accounts, how long since used)

10% = new credit (how many new accounts and how many new inquiries)

10% = types of credit used (healthy mix of loans, bankcards, store cards, no sub-prime)

Things You Can Do to Build Good Credit to Boost Your Score

  • Pay your bills consistently and on time.
  • Check your credit report and write the bureaus to remove any errors.
  • Pay down your debt load by paying more than minimums and not maxing-out limit.
  • Avoid lots of inquiries. If you are turned down for credit, fix the problem before applying again.

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