Why Credit Bureaus Are Ripping You Off...And How to Beat Them

by : Rebecca Spitzer

When you pay your credit card bills, your loan balance, or your medical bills, this information is recorded and sent to credit reporting agencies, or credit bureaus. It is their job to keep track of your credit history and other information about your life, such as where you have lived, where you work, your marital status, and any legal action taken against you. Today, thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you have the right to know what is on your credit report.

There are three main credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. Each agency has a slightly different report on you because not every credit card company, retail store, or hospital reports your payment history to the same agency. This can be a tricky part of managing your finances, so it's important to know about three areas where you might get ripped off.

  1. Charging for credit reports
    The FCRA has established a yearly rule about free credit reports. You are eligible for a free report from any and all of the three major credit bureaus every twelve months. However, if you go directly to the agency, you may be charged for the report. Instead, search for free credit report online and get your copies at the secure website provided.

  2. Posting inaccurate information
    It is very important for you to know what is on your credit reports. The fact is that this information has a great deal of influence on your standard of living. Because each agency gets its information from different sources, each report may contain different inaccuracies about your total debt, your payment history, or even your legal name. So get a copy and protect yourself from these errors.

  3. Concealing sources of information
    In some cases, a special report called an investigative consumer report is ordered to evaluate your standing in the community, get personal recommendations, and professional recommendations. You will always be notified when one of these reports is ordered from a potential employer or financial institution. However, once the report is completed, you may or may not have access to the sources of the information, so be cautious in authorizing this type of investigation.